All right, this is going to be a Rant post. I've grown quite an appreciation for Tactical First Person Shooters as of late. I've found myself enjoying Crysis 2, FEAR 1 and 2 on the same level I'd enjoy a fine wine. There's just something about the formula of a Tactical FPS I find myself drawn to be it the constant desire for cover, the desperate attempts I've made for stealth combat or the surprisingly over-violent combat present when you'd expect it in a game like Borderlands or Quake II. Said Tactical FPS' are adorned with Sci-Fi themes as well, so that could be the root of my fascination, but there's some kind of aura that separates said games from the rest of the FPS out there.
Then FEAR 3 came along... Sheeeit. All right, I've always been aware that the FEAR series has told a bad story. FEAR 1 was sort of like the original Resident Evil plot, but instead of genetically engineered weapons it was cloned soldiers taking orders from a psychic commander, all lead by a ghost. I was fine with that plot, that actually made sense in the universe this game sets itself up for. I don't get Harlan Wade's motivation near the end of FEAR 1, I'd imagine Alice could have easily felt more guilt than a character the game paints as an uncaring, family destroying monster, but whatever, FEAR 1's story structure and arch was still present.
FEAR 2's plot immediately falls a part because the entire city is in a post apocalyptic state where in the last game only a few city blocks got destroyed. It makes very little sense especially considering how Armacham is trying to cover the whole thing up is only more confusing. However, what little sense those plot devices make, it's still telling us that a ghost is running rampant around a city and it's your job to exercise it. Plus, FEAR 2 had a lot of intense action, was gorier than the last game, had better graphics, features a fun little Expansion Pack/DLC and referenced The Brain That Wouldn't Die. :)
FEAR 3 takes everything known to the FEAR series from weak, but fairly easy to follow plots to sweet combat and DESTROYS it. Previous FEAR games featured health bars replenished by collectible medkits, had a four/five ct. Weapon Inventory, Health and Reflex Boosters, shotguns capable of destroying the human body on a molecular level and taught you to rely on tactical combat. FEAR 3 switches all of that for a Regenerative Health Bar that's useless in the search for better cover, has no Boosters, a two gun Inventory, shotguns developed by a third world country capable of making people look like they fell asleep in a Paint Ball game and enemies who swarm around you en masse and openly beg for you to come out from hiding. I never thought I'd play another Duke Nukem Forever in the same year that takes a game and game formula I love and smashes it, but here I am.
Then there's the plot. Okay, remember the ending to FEAR 2? The last thing we saw depicted a ghost in a state that only a living person would be in. At first I thought 'okay, it's symbolic of something, like this apocalypse thing is just beginning or maybe there's a second ghost involved.' But no, that was meant to be taken literally. That's actually happening in FEAR 3. A ghost is doing something that only the living are capable of doing.
FEAR 3, a game that all ready has enough BS in its story to be its own septic tank actually conceives a plot line that is impossible and implausible in the very universe it sets itself in. It pulls a SILENT HILL 4 in trying to make us believe that a ghost is capable of doing something even IT's not capable of doing.* But I wouldn't be complaining about it if it didn't get worse... but it does. It totally ignores the Foxtrot 813 sub-plot, it adds emotion and sympathy to a character who previously had none seconds before killing him and it adds a sad and weepy back story to characters the player has never given a $#!T about!
FEAR 3 has a few decent things going for it with some decent cover-fire mechanics, level variety and interesting enemies... but I don't care. This is about as big a sequel to FEAR as Shattered Memories was a Silent Hill game. I think the funniest part was that epilogue video flashback; I think after one soldier, you'd think the rest of the guys would stop entering the room.
*: Unless Walter Sullivan's brain was being kept alive in a jar, there's no way we'd be able to explore those places.
Okay, I know it's been awhile since I posted here and I know my activity here has been limited, but I need to get this off my chest.
Every now and again, one Shoot em' Up comes along that manages to irritate me beyond all known previous levels of tolerance. It has been awhile since a Shooter has come along and broken my will to play a game genre I genuinely love. I think the last game to come around and do that had to have been Nanostray, a game that was so set on being difficulty and challenging and trying to maintain 'old school' status, that it threw all logic and the simplest of narrative out the window (seriously, your ship could be destroyed by steam in that game). Sometimes there are over-hyped Shmups out there that manage to irritate me, but mostly in ways that I expected. Take for example Ikaruga, a game strengthened by the immediate praise of its fan-ship who worship its sense of innovation over everything else that's supposed to matter. I played Ikaruga going into it expecting it to be all flash no substance and while the game threw some unexpected anal gameplay expectations a la Gradius in there, I cam out of it with the same feeling.
Strania on the other hand is a SHMUP on XBLA that came out of nowhere and delivered so many unexpected blows to me that I feel like I got hit by a truck. Strania is a vertical scrolling Einhander with a MUSHA skin made by ex-Taito developers G.Rev, known mostly for Japan only Shmups like Border Down and their occasional graphics department that worked on Gradius V and, wouldn't you know it, Ikaruga. The game is about the mechanical forces of Vower who have been watching planet Strania a long time and have finally decided to attack. Yeah, it's also got some Imperium in there, too. There seems to be more to it than that, the Vower seem to be just as human as the Stranians (who by the way have Earthling names), but I could care less about it all.
What irritates me about this game for starters is the weapon system. I've played Shmups with Equipped Weapon Systems before like Einhander and Sol-Deace, but with those games the weapon placements were seldom, the areas to put the weapon on your were distinct and overall were useful. Strania on the other hand makes your weapon placements so small that its sometimes hard to tell just how close to the weapon you have to be in order to equip the weapon. That's made annoying when you can accidentally equip your back-up weapon if you happen to over steer into the weapon pick-up. THAT's made infuriating when you realize that the game throws weapon pick-ups at you every goddamn second. THAT aspect is made insulting when you discover that a lot of the weapons suck or are inappropriate to the situation!
Also, you know how some Shooters like to give you a rival mech to fight throughout the game as a mini-boss like Soldier Blade or MUSHA? Strania takes that staple and wears it down so hard it'll make you hate mechs for the rest of your life. One every even-numbered stage, you fight this pilot who keeps upgrading the size and strength of their mecha. The problem is that this mecha seems to be the only plausible threat to the planet. By the end of the game, you attack the Vower HQ and you have absoluetley no mission other than to fly in and destroy this giant robot. So what it's Shienryu, now? That can't be true, because at least Shienryu had a weapon capable of destroying a country; by the end of the game, the rival mach couldn't even destroy half a city.
Its through this mech that the game throws the biggest dick-moves I've seen on a boss mech in a Shmup since Thunder Force V: If you try to beat this game on Normal, you won't get an ending so you have to beat it on Hard. Everything that keeps you from doing that adheres to this cheap mech. There's an escape sequence (again, Imperium) and a final showdown between you and the mech. If you lose all your health on the escape sequence, you have to fight the mech over again but with none of your previous weapons! Yeah, this game has a checkpoint system in it, but only serves to make the bosses harder than they all ready are. But even if you survive the escape sequence, you have the final show down. At this point you only have a few hit points left, you're down to one crappy weapon and the final boss requires several hits to kill, but you'll have at least three or four lives left, so the final show down should be a piece of cake. It should be, only the developers thought it would be a swell idea if you had no continues during the final showdown.
That's right: Once the final show down begins, you instantly lose all of your previous Credits and if you die on the final encounter, it's GAME OVER. There's no Taito-esque last minute bad ending, just plain Game Over. G.Rev took a dump on my ice cream and ignored the courtesy of calling it fudge. In any situation like this, I'd just milk the game for a few Achievements and just let it collect dust, but that's when the final straw came. I aimed at the Beat Normal w/o Continuing and Court Martial Achievements. I failed both Destroy and Escort Missions and successfully beat the game on Normal with credits and health set as they previously were when I got previous achievements... and nothing happened; the game wouldn't even give me a measly 10 points.
I'll be posting a review of this game when I let my anger truly settle; I want to let the Shmup community out there I'm miffed.