Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Crysis is the Best Shoot-Game.

Crysis 2 is coming soon and it looks like a lot of fun, so I took it upon myself to replay the first one, or rather, Crysis Warhead, since I can't find my old Crysis 1 discs.

When Crysis first released, many complained about simply not being able to run it on their PCs, a problem Crysis 2 looks to fix. But for those that could play it, I suppose I'm only realizing this just now, it was the first "totally free" shooter. Look at any major franchise and you'll see that it really devolves into point A to point B corridor shooting with no freedom on the player's side. In Crysis, you are thrust into an "action bubble" and you have to figure out what to do within it. You can scout the area, sneak around, throw guys through walls, snipe, and really gear yourself toward your own playstyle.

The more I play Crysis the more I lament its lack of popularity. Suddenly I'm awash with sadness due to the fact that it received so little attention, regardless of whether that was any fault of its own. In Crysis I'm permitted to slowly creep my way through a rainy forest, scoping out a fight long before it actually takes place, forming a plan, then executing it.

Why am I having more fun playing an "old" game than I have in the past 5 years of shooters?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Monday Night Combat and Imitation As Flattery

I was recently gifted a free pass to MNC by a friend on Steam. This friend, like myself, was religiously opposed to MNC under the premise that it was simply a TF2 copy. I played it, and it does have things that seperate it from other games and make it interesting, but ultimately it felt too simple and derivative.

During one of my trips to Valve I had the opportunity to interview Robin Walker about a number of things, and one of them was how Valve felt about games that seem to blatantly steal from them. I should note the difference between "theft" and "inspiration" here. There are plenty of games derived from other games, for example, Minecraft is aesthetically very similar to Infiniminer, and Infiniminer's ideas had been inspired by games that came before it. Robin modestly said that the majority of TF2 "imitations" can be attributed to reaching "logical gameplay conclusions", that many developers will "copy" each other without even knowing it. He brought up the fact that many players said TF2's art style looked like the Pixar-style used in "The Incredibles", but TF2 had looked the way it did long before anyone knew Pixar was working on the movie.

Despite the fact that MNC differentiates itself with a few interesting ideas, I can't shake the feeling that it has no soul. The character's voices are annoying, and each class seems to simply be a pallet-swap of something from TF2. (Both Snipers make fun of gamer culture and have identical loadouts, both heavies are big guys with chainguns and "weird nationalities", etc)

Overall MNC just left me feeling indifferent and totally unmotivated to start it up more than once.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Global Agenda, the Aftermath / Learning Blender

I picked up Global Agenda for 7.50 during its recent Steam sale, though I had been an adamant member of its community during its alpha testing phase quite some time ago. I didn't buy the game, because, I had also been a tester for Hellgate: London and Tabula Rasa...And we know what happened there. (Coincidentally, this is why I never got into APB, foresight wins again.)

The thing about Global Agenda is that, even now, it seems confused. It seems to want to be an MMO, but its open PVE environments are bleak, empty, lifeless, and boring. It wants to have PVP, and most players do enjoy this segment of the game, when the queue is functioning. It's easy to forgive the game at 7.50, but that isn't the default price. Looking back on the game's rough start, I feel like they could have learned a lot from what games like TF2 are doing now.

In a lot of ways, TF2 has it nailed. Unlike a free-to-play game, they have an initial purchase price, so, they get money. Once you're in the game, you technically have access to the vast majority of the game's content without paying any money at all, as has always been the case. If you want, though, you can pay to get items you have the possibility of finding anyway. Since some of those funds go to the community members that created them, I have never had any qualms about paying 7 dollars for a hat I wanted. I knew that some of the money was supporting TF2, and some of the money was supporting the person that made the awesome hat. The money wasn't vanishing into the void never to be seen again, it would be returned to me.

Global Agenda just makes me feel "lucky" that I got it cheap because it wouldn't have been worth more than 7.50. I'm left wondering why, in the time between the alpha and now, it hasn't done more, or fixed more, or tried harder.


In other news, I have acquired "Blender For Dummies" and hope to dig into modeling and animation soon. I had done so already, but without guidance.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New DX: HR Trailer and a Dragon Age II Demo On All Platforms


I can't help but look forward to this. Deus Ex is one of those games you point to when someone asks you to define why video games matter. Deus Ex 2 was awful, but I think it's safe to say that Human Revolution will at least trump its predecessor. It's wrong to expect it to live up to the first Deus Ex, just as it was wrong for people to expect Tron: Legacy to redefine movies. But like Tron, DX: HR is going to be a blast, and it's going to kick-ass, and it'd be a shame not to let it show you how.

DA II Demo:

I think it's literally been years since I've seen a demo that wasn't intended to convince people to subscribe to Xbox Live. Just as they did with their excellent PC-rendition of Mass Effect 2, Bioware is showing the love to all audiences, PC gamers included. I had actually caught wind of this much earlier due to a leaked Gamestop notice, but it's nice to see it was real.

"FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR MARKER" - A dead space 2 review.

If, ten years ago, you had told the gaming community that the legendary "kings of horror", Resident Evil and Silent Hill, would be replaced by a new franchise developed in America in a few years...You'd probably have been laughed at.

The original Dead Space borrowed heavily from Resident Evil 4 for its gameplay, and heavily from The Thing for its monster design, but most people didn't seem to mind. What mattered to most people was that it was a new, frightening series that managed to keep you on the edge of your seat much better than its founding fathers. It wasn't without its share of flaws, and of course, no game is perfect. What mattered was that it was solid, though. It was responsive, fun, replayable, and effortlessly unsettling.

The leap from Dead Space 1 to 2 reminds me of the leap from Mass Effect 1 to 2, in which I was expecting more of the same with a few new features, and what I got instead blew me away. Dead Space 2 is far more cinematic and engaging than its predecessor, and I was literally yelling "best game ever" within five minutes of starting it up. Maybe it was because I was playing a character with character, whose fate, for once, I legitimately cared about.

This was one complaint leveled against Dead Space 1 that I saw often, a lot of people simply wanted the main character to speak or react to the world around him. Often, when you combine that with simply not knowing when your character might die, you are given the sense of vulnerability that forces you to care about what you're doing. Remember Demon's Souls?

The most interesting thing about Dead Space as a franchise is that it is hectic, but never unfair. You may be trapped in an airless chamber, the timer on your back ticking down, face to face with an enemy you aren't capable of killing, but there is always a way out. Also praise-worthy is the game's ability to force you to shoot from positions you never thought you would be shooting from, such as while danging upside-down, or while sliding. This kind of variety is what makes Dead Space 2 so captivating, and even though it's longer than the first, it's also much less tedious.

Even more satisfying is the game's replayability. The very first thing I was compelled to do once I'd completed it was go through it again, and I proceeded to do so twice, trying different weapons, suits, and difficulty levels, constantly discovering new details and things I didn't catch the first time around. The multiplayer can be surprisingly fun and captivating when played right, but this is a rarity on Xbox Live, where the concept of teamwork eludes most players.

There were two flaws in my first playthrough of note, though I consider this to be nitpicking when I realize how great the game is. First and foremost, to train you to use Stasis, the enemy-slowing tool in your arsenal, they present you with an enemy who is simply unkillable unless you use stasis on him. I know from browsing various e-forums that the vast majority of players die here, as the enemy is so blatantly open to attack (and already being slowed by stasis anyway.) that nobody decides to slow him down first. To make things worse, his attack, for some reason, is an instant-kill, no matter what.

Secondly, the final segment of the game involves a rigorous chase scene with a very powerful enemy, and if you don't figure out what you're supposed to do quickly enough, you will soon find yourself out of ammo. This, of course, is a problem, when coupled with the fact that you are expected to fight throughout the chase. I think this area could have benefited from more playtesting, as I know several people who ran into the same issue, and were rewarded with a string of deaths they had no way to prevent. In my case, I actually had to switch the game to easy and beat it that way, which is something I tend to refuse to do in games, and pretty much ruined my first run through the game.

All in all though, even ignoring multiplayer, I consider Dead Space 2 to be well-worth the price of admission. At least on 360. I have heard of the usual "things not working" on the PC side, which is actually why I picked up the console version in the first place. The more you know!