Category Archives: Xbox 360

Xbox 360 Games

Alan Wake: Review

You know… “horror” is a very hard thing to produce. Sure, you can give people tension. You can give frustration without even half trying. Humor’s well studied, if a bit hit-or-miss. But horror has one major problem when you try to put it in a videogame… specifically, you can’t die.  The absolute worst thing that will happen to your character if you badly err is that you will have to make another attempt at the section. No amount of ambiance, nor shock, nor exposition shall ever change this aspect of gaming.

Now, for a more complete review, I did play, not just the basic game, but the “Nightmare” difficulty level. This is coloring my perspective, as I wasn’t going to sit through every cutscene, read through every bit of exposition… I just bulled through in the version where the monsters had about twice the health.

Now, when I first played this game through, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Okay, it’s ripping off the primary gameplay mechanic of “Obscure” with monsters that have shadow-based armor and light strips it. And even the insane “boosting” of flashlight beams. As combat mechanics go, it’s not exactly overused. Although there is certainly some room for refinement. In this case, the enemies do not lose health from being shot until light strips off their smoky armor. To remove it, shine a light. Make it bright. When it’s on target, a bit of faux lens flare shrinks until the armor goes out with a bright flash. Also, there’s a high-pitched hiss as it’s burned off. Bit like nails on chalkboard. This rather replaces any ambient music you would normally have to indicate combat.

Adorably, the enemies do not like having light shone upon them, and will back away, strafe… and eventually put an arm up to shield their eyes and advance on you anyway. This is actually a fairly useful way to stun them briefly without wasting precious ammo. Just remember to turn down the high beams when they put their arm up so they’ll drop it and you can blind ’em again. 😀

There’s a nice, brief variety of tools. Flares for extra light that forces foes back as it dents their armor. Revolver, shotgun, pump shotgun, hunting rifle… because making the horror vulnerable still means you have to kill it! And then we get the useful weapons. Flashbangs that you throw badly that are like IFF-capable grenades. And a flare gun that works a lot like a missile launcher, and leaves a flare effect at the point of impact. And the odd explodable tank that can be shot for a nice firework effect… a few searchlights that are a bit like machine gun emplacements… and tons of generators that turn on one light to save your ass.

The most fascinating aspect of the game’s limited weapon system is that they take it all away from you frequently. Since you can’t be sure (on the first playthrough) how long you get to hold those nice weapons… use ’em or lose ’em. This forced me to play a lot less conservatively than my usual. And made the game a lot easier. I usually try to get by as much as I can with pistols, melee… whatever won’t run out of ammo soon. This is, of course, stupid, and gets you killed when you’re facing more than one foe.

The plot rather rips off In the Mouth of Madness. Fun little flick… about a writing project gone inadvertently eldritch, surreal, and omnipotent. You find pages of the manuscript that controls and foretells the game events as you play, and so do other characters. This is at least a new form of the old audio log exposition method. It rewards the observant player with information on scenes not visited, or yet to occur.

The bit that truly surprised me about this game; was its writing. The characters get good lines, the voice actors deliver well, and the overall intent is for you to enjoy meeting these folks. Your colorful sidekick isn’t a worthless idiot, though he is used to comedic effect. He’s not a bumbling fool, but a good-hearted friend to your character. The brief stretches of the game where you have companions, they’re armed, carry flashlights, and kick ass.

Although, the game premise of having the plot written by a sleep-deprived, madness-touched author in one week does excuse some of the comically lampshaded bits, like the sheriff brushing off your inquiry as to why she has a key to the bookstore (you have to go through, the roads are blocked!). Though it does suffer from a few instances where the characters absolutely must go the long way around because there’s a 3′ fence in the way.

There are a couple bits that disappoint. First, after beating the game in either normal or hard mode, you unlock Nightmare. Which gives the wee perk of letting you collect the rest of the manuscript. A few pages in each level just aren’t there in the lesser difficulties. After collecting them… I can’t see why they bothered. Half were song lyrics and poems already in the game… only a couple really added anything. It was a bit like deleted scenes on a DVD. Some of them, you can see exactly why the darned things were deleted.

Next disappointment, is in the DLC. One’s out. Another’s due. And the thing that’s going to be put in the one that’s not out yet? The ending.

No, seriously. An ending. The game we have so far is, like a lot out of hollywood, cut off at the climax. No “happily ever after”. Well, it’s actually horror genre. Make that no “Oh no. Please for the love of God no!” ever after.

The first DLC adds a chapter. Couple cute gameplay elements with shining a light on floating words to create things… like a minefield of “bad words”. The problem is that the plot never really goes anywhere or resolves anything. It’s a fantastic production of… filler.

Curiously, we have a story about a horror story with the ending not yet written… and the ending to it hasn’t yet been written. : So… incomplete review, for now. I’ll just have to leave you hanging in-

The Saboteur

Yes, the videogame. Been playing around with this latest sandbox game. It does a lot of things right. And it looks pretty… but…

This is a game for killing Nazis from the point of view of an Irish race driver and mechanic helping out the french resistance. Seriously. You get to run around laying dynamite and evading patrols in a sort of reverse terrorism, because it’s to give the good people of France hope, restoring color to the world.

The actual gameplay is rather straightforward. It’s a GTA style game with wall-climbing, because that’s the new thing these days. In this environment, the Nazi army has established rather a large number of guard towers. You get to remove them with dynamite. It’s a bit of civic cleanup… rather literally, as the work is akin to picking up trash off the roadside.

Fortunately, once you clear the streets and rooftops of these eyesores, the game rewards you by not actually having any of them respawn. The major benefit is obvious! Uh… well, you get paid for it. A little. And when you run away from Nazi alerts, it’s easier to lose them in an area where you’ve destroyed all watchtowers.

About the only thing that’s really new here (since transforming a landscape’s color pattern is as fresh as Prince of Persia and as old as Q*Bert) is the “Perk” system. The game has a few skills and upgrades unlocked not by amassing loot and buying them, but by achievements. Each is a line of 3 tiers, unlocking the potential to finish the next, and giving progressively more game-changing rewards. In many cases, the work is really its own reward, as you can upgrade your ability to throw folks around in melee simply by throwing a few Nazis off their towers. Or not just getting some practice in with a sniper rifle, but by lining up shots where you cap 2 soldiers with one bullet. The abilities unlocked vary a bit from minimizing recoil to letting you summon a vehicle driven by a shopkeeper. Important, as, well, even with upgraded storage for multiple types of explosives, you are only one man, and you are trying to blow up several hundred structures.

Part of me really wants to enjoy this game, for the spectacle, and the unlockables. But I’m already most of the way through them, and… realizing about all the game has to offer from here is combat and sneaking around to eliminate a gigantic number of minor obstacles. Not that this is a bad thing, but I would be far more involved in the game itself if this realization had been delayed by another layer of accomplishments.

Playing this game on the PC of course provides another layer of fun in the form of crashes. Thank god for quicksave. That feature alone has made the game go from impossible to reasonable, due to a tendency to crash after 20-50 minutes playing at anything higher than minimum resolution. Whether this represents a holdover from the console editions or my computer’s shoddy design… the world may never know. I will, however, not forgive the game for having no quick way to access the full map. You can only enter the menu, select map, and then select Full Map. Which is ridiculous, because you only ever want the full map on that screen.
Most recently, in an event that probably sums up my impression of the game, I found a spot to drive downhill through a park, hitting a few ramps to jump the vehicle for profit. The game only requires that you get the car over the ramp, not to manage to land something you cannot adequately control. It is functional, and less frustrating than many GTAs, but a bit tedious for the rewards offered. Still, a bit of fun to take care of before moving on.

Jumping: Too Fucking Difficult For A Jedi

Recently I was watching my friend play Mass Effect 2, and noticed that he had come across an obstacle (a raised section of land) but seeing as the game has no JUMPING, he had to take the scenic route, walking up a ramped section of land for 2 minutes while being shot at. Something he could have avoided had the game included jumping. This seems to be a major fucking flaw with RPGs and even a few 3rd Person Shooters. Why the fuck can’t I just jump over this obstacle? Why was it so fucking difficult to include a jumping button, instead of making me run the fuck around things, and get stuck on sections of land raised 10cm. Notorious fuck-ups in jumping include Mass Effect (and ME2), The Witcher, MMORPG The Saga of Ryzom, Gears of War, and Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic (and KOTOR2). Apparently Jedi’s have no fucking idea how to jump. Suddenly they’re robbed of one of the powers everyone knows they have – Force Jump. Well done Bioware, you fucking dropped the ball on this one.

Who in the FUCK decides to not include a jumping action for these games? It certainly takes a bit of fun out of the game when you have to walk around every object in your path rather than hopping over them without any difficulty. Mass Effect 2 advertises the fact that it has a shitload of hours worth of gameplay. About half of that must be walking around obstacles you could easily JUMP THE FUCK OVER. Another fuckup is that you CAN jump over cover objects, but you first need to take cover behind them, like some sort of fucking retard. The Witcher also suffers this, making you walk around low fences and getting you stuck on slightly raised objects. Its fucking irritating to the extreme.

Anyway, thats my rant for the day.
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