This is possibly, from a hypothetical point of view, the best game in the world. Or it could also be the worst.
It is up to you to decide.
Jason Rohrer, a video games artist, is no stranger to profound stuff. He's done the Passage, which I've talked about in some length before here and here. And now he's done it again - fusing art with video games. Eat your heart out, Ebert!
If you don't know what I'm blabbing on about, let me introduce Sleep is Death. The latest wunderkind from Rohrer, the game is a two-player affair that has one person create a story, a world, and all its inhabitants for the other player to experience. It can be a dramatic story, an adventure game, a murder mystery, a romance, a comedy, a puzzle.... the point is, Sleep is Death is infinite in its possibilities, limited only by both players' imaginations.
People rave on (I do too) about the amazing nature of open-ended games like Mass Effect 2 which let your choices have an impact on the world. Well, Sleep is Death goes one step further. Any action or any words you utter in the game will have a direct and appropriate reaction from the world, all thanks to the fact that it's being controlled by a real human on the other side rather than a set of algorithms. You can literally do and say anything.
It reminds me of a really good book I read some time ago. The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr (not Rohrer, L-O-L). It's about a man who invents a seemingly magical chess machine that is intelligent enough to beat people at the game. How does it work? The secret is that there's a dwarf hidden inside playing (no joke). It feels the same with Sleep is Death. When you're the Player, even if you know deep down that there's someone at the other end of the game responding to your every move, it's still somewhat eerily awesome; that it responds so accurately.
Here's the inherent problem. The game works when both Player and Controller are onboard, crafting an awesome story together, letting it unfold spontaneously. Or if the Player is willing to go along with whatever wild trip down the light fantastic the Controller has in store for them. But if the Player decides to be daft and go against everything the Controller says or does, then the game is broken.
Example: if the Controller creates a sad little drama about a family arguing in the kitchen, and the Player is playing perhaps, the young son, it'd be totally wrong if the latter suddenly started accusing the family of being spies, and that he was actually some CIA spook sent to kill them all. It wouldn't have been the Controller's intended way for the story to go down.
Of course, the Controller could be easy-going and just go with the flow. Like I said, the game works best when both parties are in tune.
Another problem with the game. It works when everything is fun and exciting for both people - but clearly, no matter how long the Controller took to craft the story, how lovingly detailed it is, or how well-prepared they are for the random nature of the Player, the Player may very well just not enjoy the story/game. It may grow tiresome, drag on too long, or the Player may just turn off to the story for whatever reason.
The game's creation kit is also not the easiest to use. 8-bit graphics may be great for in-game, but the toolset could be a whole lot more intuitive. And this is a big deal in keeping the Controller motivated. Be warned, the learning curve is steep. But if you are willing to try, there really is a whole universe of infinite possibilities waiting for your imaginative touch. Along with the sizable amount of resources already preinstalled, there are community sites that allow you to download more bits and bobs to use in your stories. You can even upload your proud creations once they have been played out.
So there's a lot of "ifs" that this game perpetuates. IF the Player and Controller gets along, it'll all be good. IF the Controller can be bothered to build a beautiful story, it'll all be good. Jason Rohrer cannot be blamed for any of that. He's a one-man army showing up the world that games can be more than capitalism, commercialism and big pow wow explosions. This is truly heartfelt "gaming", if you can call it that; reminiscing on the good ol' days when grandparents use to tell grandkids mesmerizing stories, or friends sat around a dinner table, rolled a few dice, and played out a fantasy world. It's all that nostalgia transposed for the modern era, the 8-bit graphics just further emphasizes that.
For some people, it'll be brilliant. For others, they might stick to their awesome shiny graphics and big bang explosions. Whatever it is, people like Rohrer, and games like Sleep is Death prove that the indie games scene is a necessity. Indie game developers are the heroes who will go forth into the dark abyss of our gaming existence, push the boundaries for what we are capable of playing, and show us that in this deeply cynical, money-driven age, there is some love.
Sleep is Death is a mere US$14. It gets you a DRM-free (that's right, Ubisoft) digital copy of the game. It's bite-size, doesn't take much hard drive space, and you can share a second copy with a willing friend to play. It's not much for a playground of joy, and even if the idea doesn't excite you entirely, if you're a little bit curious, it'll still be an interesting nugget of experience.
I've put a link to one of my favorite SiD created stories below. It's hauntingly sad and beautiful, and sheer proof that Rohrer is a genius to have created this game. It is indeed a new era of user-generated content.
Link HERE. Keep in mind that the little kid in the game is the Player, and he has no idea what's in store for him.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I haven't done video posts in awhile. Interesting games afoot!
First up, Red Dead Redemption
This is highly anticipated on my list. It looks a gazillion times bigger than GTA 4, more awesome than Just Cause 2, you can channel your best Clint Eastwood, and multiplayer free roam means you and your buds can form a gang, kick ass, and ride into the sunset together.
Unfortunately there's no confirmation of when it's coming out for the PC ): Only consoles for now. But Rockstar did the same with GTA 4, releasing it on the PC a little after consoles. So I'm optimistic it won't be too long before we see this for mouse and keyboard.
Singularity up next!
From the dudes who also did the latest Wolfenstein reboot. That was a decent game and had nifty hand powers too. But this is running on the more graphically epic Unreal 3 engine, so it's going to rock. It's giving off some Half-Life vibes, not that that's a bad thing seeing as Valve is not working on the game they should be working on. I'm hoping this is just as smart as it is action-packed.
Law Abiding Engineer - A TF2 machinima
Not a game but if you've seen the movie Law Abiding Citizen, or love TF2, then you'll want to see this. Heck, even if you haven't seen the movie or like TF2, just watch this blasted video. It rocks all kinds of socks off. Totally something Valve might've done, 'cept some brilliant dude got to it first.
And last but not least, a non-PC game, but still an awesome trailer.... Gears of War 3
I don't know about you, but even the Gears of War 1 and 2 trailers were moving to me. Epic seems to know how to tug at my heartstrings; it's the juxtaposition of an intense, grim action-packed game with some really beautifully chosen music. R.E.M, Devotchka or this one's Heron Blue by Sun Kil Moon (if you were wondering). But I really like that last line. "Brothers to the End".
Have a good day, everybody.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
This week, I checked out Ubisoft's two latest games Splinter Cell: Conviction and Assassin's Creed 2. You wondering wot they are like?
Splinter Cell: Conviction. The game is frighteningly fast compared to the turtle-pace of the original trilogy. Just five minutes in and things are already going kablooey. There's a definite sense of constant locomotion; you do what you must to get pass the guards, get into the building, and keep moving forward. Improvise as you go. You never come to a complete stop, nor back-track. In one sense that makes the game mighty linear, but heck, Ubisoft has made a very good point with why Conviction is a tighter, shorter affair.
The majority of gamers just never finish their games (noobs) and the older Splinter Cells have been victims of this too (seriously, noobs, the lot of 'em). So Conviction is built to feel like a really awesome movie/rollercoaster ride. There is just never any player agency in carrying the plot forward. The game takes care of that so all you have to do is have fun in the little pockets/playgrounds, peppered with enemies and dark shadows and furniture and whatever.
Much of the game I've seen/played rocks. Cover works really well, so does the actual sneaking around bits. I was worried it was going to be too easy for the console crowd, especially in firefights, but it turned out to be quite the challenge when getting shot at. You die pretty easily, so you're really forced to think about your tactics rather than just go in guns blazing. That's Splinter Cell right there.
And interrogation. Ouch. Seriously ouch. Some people will be turned off by the torture bits, but never does it feel like Ubisoft put it in there for the sake of gratuitous violence. It feels like exactly what Sam Fisher would do. If I lost a daughter, I'd be that pissed too.
I don't want to go into too much detail here because I'd like to finish the game first, so expect a full blown review when the game comes out for PC at the end of the month (blasted console exclusivity). One last thing. The cooperative mode alone is worth the admission fee. Both you and a friend can have tons of fun whilst doing some really wicked two-man stealth operations.
Next. I played Assassin's Creed 2 (I know this has been out awhile, but its the DRM that's holding me back) and straight away, I can say that it's an immense improvement over the first title. In fact, it is so much more engaging that we can even forget that the first title ever existed, and just have this as the starting point. It gets newcomers up to speed with the story so far anyway.
The characters seem more lively like dumbass Desmond who tries horribly at times to do a Nathan Drake impression, and even Kristen Bell (no one remembers her character's name) had a makeover for the better. But most importantly, I like the new assassin protagonist Ezio Auditore. He's a smart, fun and mischievous kid. Loves his family and is a good guy. Unlike Altair who is a douche.
Some bad shit goes down that forces Ezio to grow up quickly. And when that bad stuff happens to him, Ubisoft has you hooked by the heart. You will empathize with the poor guy.
Action is fine. Pretty similar to the first game. In fact, I may venture so far as to say it has dumbed down a little. The first game had you on your toes when surrounded by enemies; needing to find openings and counter attacks. AC2 feels like button-mashing; just isolate an enemy and keep hitting till he's down. Swordplay doesn't seem as interesting as in the first game, but yes, I haven't gotten very far to say for sure yet.
Certainly a different beast altogether from Splinter Cell: Conviction which seems overly grim, but Assassin's Creed 2 holds its own with an immersive world. For sure, AC2 seems to be crafted with love and such attention to detail even if it is the graphically weaker game to SC:C.
In fact, I was so impressed with Assassin's Creed 2 that I was tempted to go buy a copy immediately myself. But alas, I'm just a poor boy from a poor family. No, really, I am a broke student. Have to decide whether to get this now or save up for Splinter Cell a couple of weeks later.
And then there's still the problem of the DRM. I have been convinced that Ubisoft really does not disappoint with their games, and it's understandable if they want to protect their hard work from piracy. But this internet-connection-only DRM is the worst of the worst. People are still struggling to connect to other Ubisoft games like Settlers 7. This is really working against Ubisoft's favor. Or have they given up on PCs, what with there being enough console gamers to make money from? I can't really say for sure. I have no solution. We'll just have to wait and see how Splinter Cell handles the DRM.
Friday, April 16, 2010
This post has nothing to do with games, but in line with my recent review of Just Cause 2, I reckon this music video totally sums up the coolness of the game.
Oh and, I hit my 100th post just a bit ago.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I am not playing much right now. Boo to that. But there are some good games coming over the horizon that are worth talking about. Let's start by talking about a sneaky 'un.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
I really was going to boycott every Ubisoft game that comes out now. Honest. The DRM has been evidentially causing people a lot of grief so why would I be dumb enough to get Splinter Cell: Conviction?
Well because I've got a long-love for this sneaky game. I was so mesmerized by the possibilities with the first one, and though I never actually played the second or third (Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory), I will always remember the ground breaking concept of skulking around third-person view, with super gadgetry and REALLY using night vision for something other than shooting people dead in the night.
Plus, Tom Clancy was good at building a believable modern world in his stories that were filled with espionage intrigue, where corporate giants and the government were entangled in the dirtiest of ways, no one could really say who was good or bad, and you as the player and as Sam Fisher was viewing all this shit as an outsider.
Double Agent detracted from this slightly, it was their attempt at refreshing the near-dead series, and understandable enough, how much more interesting could a sneaky game be after you beat the horse to death with three games. It failed thanks to sheer technical bugginess (I got the copy for my birthday, and I never got very far because it didn't work) and it just isn't Splinter Cell if you aren't spending a major portion of your time in the shadows waiting to sneak past an annoying guard.
Splinter Cell was Metal Gear Solid without the explosively bombastic storylines or characters. It was Thief without the supernatural crap. And it certainly had more stealth than Assassin's Creed. It was the serious man's adventure. You could imagine that shit going down in real life, and just like Sam Fisher, it was hard as nails. And unapologetic about it.
So I'm hoping the latest Splinter Cell, in its reincarnation, doesn't lose too much of that hardcore serious vibe. I know Sam Fisher's angsty at losing his daughter, and he's pretty much channeling Liam Neeson from Taken, but Ubisoft please don't lose control on the story for some Hollywood-styled action. The game's been dumbed down (for console audiences, heh) and more action than stealth driven, but if they can keep presenting a world-view that is sickeningly twisted and yet frighteningly prophetic of real life, then I'm sold.
One good thing. I'm glad Ubisoft didn't stick with Sam Fisher's hobo look. That was just not very becoming.
Oh and, five hours is REALLY short for game time. Those five hours better be mind-blowing.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
So you play this game. Things explode, cars crash, people die and you laugh. You laugh because it's the ultimate playground of destruction. And you laugh because it has offensively bad voice-acting, especially from one Bolo Santosi.
But little do you realize that Avalanche Studios and Eidos are laughing at you.
Sandbox games are dime a dozen now. Make no mistake, they aren't easy to develop. How do you capture a large scale environment and yet make it extremely focused for the player. Make everything work, nothing clunky (bad case in point: Saboteur), no details left out, and most importantly, how to keep gamers playing?
The game devs struck gold when they realized that it's not enough that people like to go around cities jacking cars and causing mayhem. People subconsciously like to blow up shit. And Just Cause 2 has that in aces.
You're thrown into a fictitious South East Asian island called Panau that's going through the standard military-coup-take-over thing that corrupt islands of that part of the world normally get up to, and as a CIA spook, it's your very-American duty to stick your nose in other people's business and cause trouble for American gains.
Most people playing this game will probably not get past the first few missions. Most people are probably just going to see how high they can fly a plane and jump out of it, and grapple on to moving vehicles. Or how long they can drag a poor helpless victim along the back of their car with a cable. And if they do play the missions, they are just going to laugh at the horrendously bad Singaporean accents, the crappy lines, and bombastic caricatures of people in the cutscenes.
Truth is, the game devs don't want you to take this game seriously. I mean, when the game lets you hijack helicopters whilst in mid-air, or level an entire base single-handedly, then you know this game is no serious GTA IV. You even have to fight random ninja, WTF. That's fine, play this game like a toy then. It's a very well made toy indeed.
The graphics positively scream out at you, the world is so exquisitely crafted; the jungles lush, the beaches golden, the peaks snowy, and the water wet and clear. I would even say that it is as beautiful a realized world as Far Cry 2's African landscape. There are lots of little detail thrown in that people may or may not not even see; temple ruins deep within the trees, little villages out by the sea, and an Easter egg to beat all Easter eggs. Let's just say that when you see what it is, and how well it references the TV show, you'll be tearing your hair out in fanboy ecstasy.
The cars handle like shit, the planes and boats handle too well, not that that's a bad thing as overall, driving is a joy. Either for sightseeing or causing carnage, both are too fun. There's a lot of shooting too, it works fine, although it's not the let's-be-cool-and-use-cover system kind of shooting you get nowadays. It's run, gun and dodge enemy bullets. But being able to to grapple everywhere makes you better than Spiderman.
To me, the best part of Just Cause 2 is that it's no walk in the park. You're given the license to blow shit up, a grapple and infinite parachutes at your disposal, but be warned, enemies will come in droves after your South American ass. That's probably the most un-fun thing the game can do to you, but it's also ironically the most "realistic". They'll throw armies, helicopters and planes to shoot you down, and if you're not fast or quick-witted enough, death comes often. But that's fun, if you ask me.
When you can keep cool under pressure, kill everybody or make a daring escape, then you are worthy to keep blowing up shit in this game. The challenge is exciting, and this is where you should begin to see that this game is to be taken seriously. Why?
On a simple level, blow up shit, kill everybody. On a deeper level, see that this game is the evolution of Far Cry 2. Everyone raved about how that game lets you tackle missions, approach enemy bases any way you wanted. This game does that too - you really can go into missions any way you want, and finish it any way you want. Complete player agency. It leaves you feeling chuffed after each mission if you've handled it superbly, and to your own high standards. You just want to have someone look over your shoulder and tell them, "Look at me! Look at me be cool!"
Because that's what Just Cause 2 does. It makes you look fucking cool. Whether you're walking away from an explosion just like they do in the movies, or free falling from a skyscraper on to the back of a jet plane, Niko Bellic just can't touch Scorpio. Neither can Nathan Drake for that matter. Scorpio doesn't crack bad jokes either, he just grimaces and is willing to get his hands dirty. Now that's a cool protagonist. And he has the best lines like "If you don't shut up, I'm going to cut off your hands and bitch slap you with them all the way to wherever we're going".
The missions themselves are plentiful. Whether you're doing side work for factions or powering through a main story mission, they are all fun and varied. Hijack vehicles, escort hostages, blow shit up, assassinate... you'll never tire of the fun ways to cause mayhem this game has in store for you. And the story missions are super intense.
One highlight is a boss fight in which you have to take down three military generals, one after the other. They're located on the rooftops of three buildings; there's little room to maneuver and the enemies have big weapons. The Russian general has a tank on the roof, whilst the Japanese uses a satellite-controlled particle beam cannon. The odds are certainly against you, but then again that's what the entire game is like. No walk in the park. But fun as hell.
And what of the story? It appears so dumbass, the lines just appalling and seriously, Singaporeans do not talk like that. But if you invest some time to get deep into the missions, towards the end-game, you will see as Scorpio sees, the grotesque nature of everything happening on the island. You will definitely see the corrupt opportunistic faction leaders, furthering their own gains at the expense of the island, the obvious tyranny of the dictator, and the imperialistic arrogance of America, the way they manipulate everything, and have to stick their fat stubby fingers in other people's pies. This game also cleverly makes a sly poke at Singapore.
Why else would it have Singaporean accents? Why is there a news reader that pops up every once in awhile to lie to the public. You blow up a base, and the news reader comes on to say that the explosion the people heard was just fireworks, or some bullshit like that, nothing that would case panic in the population. Singapore is not known for their free press either.
You laugh at the stupidity of the game's shallow presentation, but there's a point behind it. It's all a farce, a freaking caricature of geo-politics today, and Scorpio, you, the stoic hero, is at the center of it all, exposing one dirty little secret at a time with well-placed grenades. If you don't realize this and see the game as just a fun toy, than Square Enix is laughing at you and your ignorance.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Life on Mars is an awesome TV show. Just finished it a couple of nights ago. I reckon it should be made into a video game. Hear me out.
For those who don't know, Life on Mars is a 2006 British crime/detective series about a policeman Sam Tyler who gets into a car accident that sends him back in time to 1973. Then, lost in a time he doesn't know, where the police force is ruthless and corrupt, he has to find out why he is there and how to get back.
I reckon that using Bioware's Mass Effect 2 engine, an awesome game could be made of the series.
It'll be a mystery-detective game, so you have to walk about crime scenes analyzing stuff, and talking to people. In fact, the talking to people bits are the most important part of the show and the game. Hence, Mass Effect 2's nice conversation wheel can come into play along with the nice cinematics.
There have to be a lot of hard choices to make, right things to say at the right time, be it when questioning suspects, or getting morsels of information out of wary witnesses. Then, like in Mass Effect 2, there'll be a Paragon/Evil mouse icon flashing at the moments when you can pull the Good Cop/Bad Cop move. Maybe you'll throw the guy up against the wall and punch his gut if he's not being helpful, or you can stop DCI Gene Hunt from doing something corrupt, like planting evidence on a bad guy.
In Life on Mars, Sam Tyler always appears in opposition to the police force because his methods of policing are ethical, logical and scientific. So in an interesting twist, every time you do a Good Cop move, the other characters will get really pissed. Gene Hunt especially; not only will some of his conversation options be disabled, he will antagonize you for always going against him.
Life on Mars doesn't have many shoot-outs, but I guess in the interest of making this a mass marketable game, there's got to be some action bits for those short-attention spanned fools. Lots of running after bad guys.
Squad-based gameplay? Sure. You've got Detective Annie Cartwright and Chris Skelton backing you up, and instead of just plain ordering them around to help you shoot stuff, you could assign them tasks such as looking for the murder weapon in a landfill, or interrogating a group of witnesses, so you can get the information faster.
The actual detective gameplay will be to collect enough evidence, or concrete confessions from witnesses, suspects, etc. to put a criminal away behind bars. There'll be no hand-holding in the game, the player has to make connections for themselves. Like if a witness mentions a brother to the killer, the player has to decide to go find this brother, or not. People will lie and lead you down the wrong path. Who can you trust? In the case at hand, and with the wider conspiracy within the police force.
Relationships? Totally. Life on Mars is all about the relationships in the police force, gaining or losing respect from the people by the choices you make. Like when Sam lets Ryan walk towards a bomb about to explode unknowingly, causing the latter's hospitalization. This leads to everyone else on the force being pissed at Sam, ostracizing him. People won't listen to your orders, and as before, conversation choices close off. Relationships are big in this game, and love interests? Sure, you've got just Annie to focus on but she's one tough cookie to crack.
Madness. Sam Tyler is constantly referring to his life in 2006, which is both comedic in some instances and dramatic in others. Like how in one scene, Sam tells Annie he'll reward her with a Kit-Kat for her good work. And she's like "Kit-Kat?" and Sam says, "Yeah, a chunky one." Annie walks away offended. Why? No chunky Kit-Kats back then LOL.
Anyway, Sam in the game will have visions/hallucinations, hear voices in the oddest of places, and you have to juggle police work in 1973 whilst uncovering the mystery behind your time traveling. But the more you chase your madness, the more distance you put between yourself and Annie. An interesting dilemma for the players.
The graphics will be superb. The Bioware team will do their research so well that they'll get the 1970s Manchester vibe down. The industrial feel, the red bricked houses and most importantly, the depressing gray weather.
The music is going to kick ass, just like the TV show, with most tracks from the 60s and 70s. Including David Bowie's Life on Mars, Elton John's Rocket Man, Neil Young, etc.
Voice-acting will be top notch. We'll get all the actors and actresses of the series including John Simm and definitely Philip Glenister. Besides, all of 'em save Liz White and John Simm are still playing their characters for the spin-off show Ashes to Ashes.
Most important thing? Your choices will have an impact on the story. Just like in the first episode, when Sam Tyler chooses to let a suspect walk because of a lack of evidence. And in doing so, the bank robber robbed again and in the process shoots an innocent bystander. The blood is on Sam's hands, your hands. That's compelling gaming right there.
Finally, then Bioware can say "Suck it, Heavy Rain!"
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I've been M.I.A for a month plus. Why?!?! WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!? WHAT'S IN THE BOX!?!
Click below to find out.
Hello everybody. It's been awhile. And suddenly out of the blue, I pop a review of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on. Anyway, that particular post has been sitting in my Drafts for ages, it's just I decided to take a break from games writing.
I've been thinking why I do it. Why do I write? Why do I game? Why do I produce all this content, why do I consume so much content? For what end? And most importantly, if I am producing content, is it of the best quality that it can be?
So I've been reading a lot of game blogs of late, or rather, as I have always done it's just that this time with an eye to see how they do things. To see how I can improve my own, and I've decided the thing I'm going to do differently from now on is to add a more personal voice. Include personal anecdotes. How that's going to be relevant to the games, I don't know just yet, but heck this is my personal blog too.
I used to rant endlessly on previous incarnations of this blog, with little structure to my reviews or commentary. But now I see that even so, I had more fun with the stream of consciousness than I did with a planned style. Not that I'm going to stop producing quality, well-edited posts. I'll keep doing what I've been doing, just now with a more personal mark on them. And I hope you as the readers can see this come through.
And I've answered the all important question. Why do I write about games? Because I just love to share my thoughts on them. In fact, playing the games themselves is only half the fun. That is all.
So, in my month or so missing, what have I been up to? I have been playing lots of games, that's what.
Atmospheric, tense, immersive, scary. Those are the words I'd use to describe this Russian heavyweight. It's like Stalker, Fallout, and all those other post-apocalyptic games rolled into a highly focused, robust train ride of doom. It's the first Russian game I've played that's less buggy, less clunky than most of the stuff to come out of that country. For the most part, the game is compelling and worth a try. The writing is top notch thanks to the fact that it was originally a huge best-selling novel, and honestly, Russian apocalypses are bleaker and less bullshit than American ones.
Just Cause 2
What game lets you hijack helicopters in mid-air, jump between cars with such ease, grapple-climb tall mountains, free fall from amazingly great heights and cause utter mayhem on a South East Asian island?
I've never had such fun with a sandbox game in a long time. In GTA, you have to find the right building to jump off from, and find a parachute. In Just Cause 2, you can do it anytime anywhere. INFINITE PARACHUTES! This is the first sandbox game where it's really up to you what hell you want to raise, and how you want to do it. I feel like Mercenaries should give the title Playground of Destruction to Just Cause 2 because it really is just that. And the island is friggin' pretty.
Must play. Also to hear the offensively camp Singaporean accents.
Dragon Age's Awakening expansion and Mass Effect 2's Katsumi Goto DLC.
First one, fun stuff for continuing the Dragon Age adventure. But when will the stupid Blight and Darkspawn shit ever end?
Second one, interesting new mission but really too short, and nothing spectacular to add to the experience. Don't get your hopes up for Katsumi as a new potential love interest either. Cause she isn't one.
AND THAT'S IT. It feels good to be back. Till next time.
WAR. In capital letters. That's what Battlefield Bad Company 2 tries to achieve. Was it successful?
Find out, below the cut!
Let's start with single-player shall we. In short?
Why? Basically, the characters are annoying and the script is poorly written, the writers seeming to think they are the greatest comedians on earth.
Furthermore, the construction of the game is like something out of the 90s, which is to say, completely out-dated and poorly done. Enemies pop out of invisible spawn points after you pass predictably placed triggers. Let me illustrate with an example. In one level I noticed a tripwire trap in the grass and attempt to jump over to avoid setting it off. I clearly jump to clear it, but the game doesn't let me. It says "No, you MUST trip the wire, otherwise we can't start the next set piece in which all hell breaks loose, and you must shoot more shit".
That is not good gaming and is just one in many horrific experiences I've had with the single-player campaign. Sure, Modern Warfare 2's got moments like that too, but they are better masked and the action so explosively distracting that it doesn't really matter. But when you can clearly see the tripwire and want to avoid it, it's frustrating that the game is so lazily restrictive.
The cutscenes are jarring as they occur at the most unnecessary of times, breaking up the gameplay too much. Dying is also a chore because then you have to go back to the loading screen for some time, whilst checkpoints are too far apart. It gets annoying have to play through scripted set pieces again.
S0 I was absolutely disappointed with the single-player. A waste of time. And undoubtedly, this will bring down the score of the entire game, which is a shame.
Because multiplayer is pretty damn good.
As I said at the start, this is WAR. It seriously is. With the beautiful, richly detailed and robust Frostbite Engine, DICE has created an experience of war that is unlike anything you'd have experienced before.
With the new graphics engine, everything is so pitch perfect in ambience. Dust kicks up with billowing winds, trees are lush and the sun is sweltering. Water shimmers and is truly wet, and guns kick back with nasty recoil. In the distance, there is the incessant cracks of gunfire, and if you stand next to a tank, BOOM. In fact, there's so much BOOM in the game. Battle chatter is also a constant in your ear, squads shouting accomplished objectives, incoming threats, cries for medics and back-up, reloading, etc. This ties in to how great sound is in this game too.
Which brings me to my next point. The graphics engine is not only one of the best out there right now (it's lush jungles come close to the Cry and Dunia Engines in fidelity) but it's also got DESTRUCTABILITY. Which is necessary in WAR.
If you don't know how such an engine works, here's a quick lecture from Professor Junch. Basically, with most engines, at least simpler ones, if they wanted to show destructability, it was a case of replacing assets of a house with a broken house as soon as hits upon the building were registered. But see, doing this is just an artificial representation of destruction that could not truly be considered accurate/realistic.
With the Frostbite Engine, where you hit is what will come apart. Walls, fences, boxes, vehicles. And this is amazing not just because it looks great when buildings fall apart with constant shelling from tanks, mortars, grenades, etc. but also because this changes the battlefield dynamically every round. Need to quickly get from point A to point B? Just shoot a hole in the wall and run right through. But if you're taking cover in a house, don't think you're completely safe. All it takes are a few well-placed shots from a tank and your hidey-hole is reduced to rubble.
Combat is decent, although it appears a lot less "realistic" in the sense that you really need to pump an enemy full of lead to bring him down. I get that this game needs their players to have quantifiable hitpoints but I think in a war game, shooting someone in the chest would drop them pretty fast. It especially sucks if you're a low level sniper trying to make good kills. I should really play the hardcore mode, but there just aren't enough people playing on those particular servers.
Like that other big war shooter, DICE has got a rewards system going. Experience is earned separately for each class. So play enough times with the Recon, and see your snipers upgraded etc. Play as a medic, and get more healing abilities and weapons unlocked there. Which means the classes you neglect will remain crap throughout, which is fine. There's also a lot of rewarding on the battlefield, anything from killing an enemy, assisting in kills, capturing flags, etc.
Which brings me to my next point on death, fun, and stress levels. Undoubtedly, with any shooter, it takes awhile to get a hang of the gameplay, mechanics, in order to be proficient with it. You see, as I've mentioned many times before about Modern Warfare 2, that game is seriously ruthless in its competitivity. People play for themselves even if it's a team deathmatch. It's always about being on top of the leaderboard, pwning others, and keeping your death count down. Unlocking the next big toy to kill more people with. It's an extremely stressful way of playing the game, but Modern Warfare 2 does perpetuate that.
But I didn't feel that with Bad Company 2's multiplayer. As good as I was at MW2, I had a lot of getting used to with BC2, and undoubtedly, going up against tanks and more enemies meant dying more often. It didn't matter so much to me. In WAR, being cannon fodder was just inevitable. But every time you die, you push harder, take out one more enemy, and then go down fighting again. Then respawn to start all over again. It doesn't matter so much because you truly feel like you're fighting for your side, rather than yourself.
If you die defending a capture point, that's just good play. This game does team play very well. From easy points gained from ammo dumping or reviving teammates, to objectives that are clearly marked on your HUD, this game really compels you to do your bit for the war effort. In the Battlefields of old, I loved forgoing the whole fighting thing and just jumping in a jeep and driving across vast open spaces, the wind in my hair. But this game really encourages you to keep the focus on the fight.
Sure, the maps are just as big, and traversing across large spaces is a chore but DICE has streamlined the experience now by allowing you to respawn within squads, and if they are fighting at hotspots, it keeps the action flowing. There is never a dull moment, and everyone is somewhere doing something.
Vehicles are great fun, and they drive well. No complaints there. There's a decent variety of maps and undoubtedly, DICE will have more coming. And there are really just three distinct modes on offer, conquest and rush are just different versions of attacking and defending specific points, whilst squad-play is a more focused, small affair pitting two teams of four against one another. Squad-play is much easier in making kills and being an important player on the team, because there are so few others to compete with. In a massive 32-player kill-fest, it takes a lot to be the stand-out legendary hero of your team.
The only gripe I have about the game is that connections to online games is quite iffy. It takes a long time to refresh a server browser (like, a really long time) and when you do, expect a few failed connections or drop-outs. Modern Warfare 2 in comparison has a more robust multiplayer framework which means you spend less time worrying about connecting, and more time playing. DICE needs to make it a lot better so that it becomes less of a chore wanting to just get into a decent multiplayer game. That said, once you're in, it's all good. Map changes happen within the server so you don't have to worry about reconnecting, etc. Just keep playing and soon you'll realize that time has passed and the real world has sunk under the sea.
In conclusion, compared to Modern Warfare 2's paintball shooter in which a handful of ruthless, cold gamers scurry about small maps pwning each other, Bad Company 2 is your true war shooter. This is war as frighteningly epic and intense as it gets. Running with a whole bunch of your squad towards more explosions, gunfire and just as determined as the enemy is nothing short of exhilarating. Battlefield is back, and it's as awesome as 1942 was eight years ago. Worth getting for the multiplayer experience. Just forget that the single-player ever existed.