Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lots To Say

But I want to be brief. So I will try.

MGS4. Great game. 10 worthy. Meh, maybe if you classify as a half game half movie. But the gameplay and the cinematics while both being excellent, do not especially compliment each other as well as one would hope for. It does have some good plot resolution. Assuming you have an ability to follow the MGS plot in the first place. Here is a hint for following, ignore an existential questions as mere ramblings of a dellusional mind and try to to think too much about everything that occurs. The less you dwell on it the more sense it will make.

Operation Darkness. Turn-Based Strategy RPG, set in alternate universe WWII with vampires and other things mythological in nature. I enjoy it in the same way I enjoy the Dynasty Warriors series. As a game that is fun when you simply stop trying to play the best games ever, when you are sick of games that try to constantly innovate simply for innovation's sake. 
Apparently is a horrible horrible game. It certainly is nothing amazing. But I for do not feel that it is deserving a score below the 50% mark. Certainly hovering at 50% is legitimate. But I feel anything in 20% range means the game fails to function at all, or kills off a member of your family while you try to play it.
The game has bad graphics. Yes, it does. But they arent trying to be great.
The camera is horrid. Yes it is. But how many games have a camera that isnt broken? Granted it is very hard to effectively use, but then again you arent exactly being pressured into making high stakes rapid decisions. It is a turn based strategy game, you are allowed to carefully look around see where everything is consider your options.
Honestly the game plays like Fire Emblem with guns. And with a stupid camera that actively is out to prevent you seeing your opponents. But stupid camera's are something that goes with playing 3D games.
The story is out there, but then again games dont really have good stories ever. The VO is mediocre at best, but most times I've found it to be tolerable enough. 
Perhaps I'm making too many excuses for a game simply because I paid money for it. Perhaps.
I'd hope not though. I am enjoying in small portions. Which is how I play all of my strategy rpg games. I never burn through them. They tire me out playing them like that. I can only handle taking several hours each mission before I need a 2 week break from the entire genre. I remember when the GCN Fire Emblem came out I played it for 2 weeks, then put it away for literally 6 months, picked it up again at the end of an August and finished it. Had a great time.

Oh well. If you dont like Operation Darkness that's fine. I do. Even with all it's flaws.

Oh and one more slight bit of news.

Ahem. yea small game. Giant fan of the hack'n slash genre so this is my new most anticipated game. Man I really hope they put a beta out next year. With a release in 2010. Somehow though I just know I'm going to end up waiting until 2011. Which will suck. Blizzard and Valve own my life. All other devs could vanish in a puff of smoke and I wouldnt care. They make good enough games that I could play Valve's shooters, and Blizzard's RPGs and Strategy games forever, and be perfectly happy. 

So that's really all I wanted to talk about. If you'll excuse me I have a Diablo 2 copy to install.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This, That and Gears of Metal

So, several things have occurred in gaming world during my Blog's absence. Most notably (to me at any rate) was the launch of Ninja Gaiden II, and of Metal Gear Solid 4.
I'll start with MGS4 because I havent played much yet, so very brief impressions.
I should open with the statement that MGS4 did provoke me to purchase a PS3, and that is exactly what I did. So far I have not been disappointed. The limited time with MGS4 has been positive overall, and the purchase of Singstar (more on that near the end) cements the confidence I maintain in my purchasing decision.

So MGS4, well it is impressive looking if nothing else. The entire interface is mind blowing, crystal clear, beautiful and utterly awe inspiring. This is a game that has production values through the roof and it's smacking you about the face with them. The game is quite simply the greatest looking game I have ever seen. Crysis may 'technically' be better looking, but the character model of Otacon continues to make me gasp, everytime he shows up on the "ear-chat" info chat-fests, the amount of detail put in his appearence blows me away.
But graphics arent everything, although for the record, MGS4's graphics are perfect to me, they in no way limit the experience and only enhance it. I am not normally a person who cares for graphics but these are quite drool inducing.
So Gameplay. You've played a previous MGS? Pretty much the same, solid sneaking mechanics, with the raw combat engine being somewhat passable this time around.
The best moment I've seen so far was when I got spotted and a troop escaped to report in and request backup. The command replied by stating "No backup currently available, make due with what you have." That blew my mind, for once no unlimited spawning enemies? In MGS? What? Of course I then minutes later found a respawning area of enemies and that illusion was crushed. But then I quite frankly dont give a shit about MGS's gameplay anyways. It's all about Snake baby, and I hear good things about this story. So I'll stick around.

Ninja Gaiden II
You kill shit, shit bleeds, alot. You will become frustrated and want to smash something (you may smash something repeatedly as I did) and you will hate this game. But ultimately the game simply needs you to push your abilities to understand how the AI fights; that is to say if you block too long you get brutally grabbed, if you dont attack you will be attacked, and if you stop moving you will die. Oh and learn to pull off Ultimate Techniques, otherwise the game will bitchslap around certain parts.
The weapons are awesome, the combat is invigorating and demanding.
Tragically I havent actually really said ANYTHING about the game however. At least not anything important. The game is fun, and hard, maybe it's harder than the First, but probably not. The bossfights certainly are easier. Simply dont use cheap moves and keep your feet on the ground and bossfights are viable. Just need to die a few times to learn what moves you must avoid at all costs.
Overall I really like the game, The enemies are for the most part interesting and it is quite enjoyable to slaughter them. Although the rocket troops are kind of a cop-out to the actual difficulty. Anytime they are around it basically prevents you from even being able to block, but technically they dont show up alot until you play the game on 'Hard' mode.
I wouldnt recommend the game to most of my friends, but they arent exactly hardcore gamers. It certainly is not casual game, at least not Normal mode. Easy mode very well could be quite generous to newcomers, I wouldnt know.
But I like it and if you like action games that only got the action right, then Ninja Gaiden is about as purist as you can get nowadays. Just dont expect a good story. There is evil shit and it needs to bleed, and you have many sharp weapons to make them bleed with.

Awesome party game. All I need now are people to come over and play with. The fact that it can use webcam to record the singing only contributes to even greater showboating.
So, like, if anyone wants to come and have a grand 'ole time singing songs for laughs feel free to tell me.

Until I remember to post again. Ciao!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Let's Talk About Achievements

On the Xbox 360, obviously. Achievements have since their arrival been heralded as the greatest thing to hit console gaming since the notion of saving your game between levels appeared. (Believe me that took a very long time to arrive.) The concept is behind them is utterly simple, yet the implementation was pulled off very effectively, surprisingly so. It is as follows, designers are told that their game must have achievements in it. They must add up to 1,000 points, and the designers are pretty well free to make them whatever they want. When designers make achievements something notable it can really add to your bragging rights and also serves as a visible testament that you actually accomplished the "achievement". At long last gamers can no longer proclaim their greatness without any viable way to test it. You can simply look up that person's gamertag and voila! You can find out right there if they are as good as the boast. Further boosting the lure of the achievement is the fact that an overall gamerscore is generated adding all of your achievements into a single score. Making for an overall bragging rights, although given there are no actual quality control for achievements bragging about overall score is quite pointless given that if you are willing to rent every game you'll probably outpace someone who simply plays a few select games and masters them getting all 1000/1000. Thereby negating the entire allure of having achieved something.

So overall achievements are probably a good thing for the evolution of gaming right? Well overall yes. Although recently several sights I've seen around the 'webs' seem to have me concerned with the future of achievements and games.
It centers around the notion of bragging about overall "gamerscore" which, as stated above, is pointless. The system is not controlled enough to validate bragging about having the most point when you can play only 'kiddy' games and make thousands of points in a few weeks, versus someone who goes for 1000/1000 in Mass Effect. (Something that would take roughly 150 hours of gameplay, perhaps even more.)
What really has me concerned is the consumption of games solely for the acquisition of more achievement points. In this situation we have people getting games solely for their point value and nothing else. The concern with this is that game quality becomes utterly irrelevent to those 'gamerscore whores', the mere fact that it has 1000 precious points to be juiced out is reason enough to purchase the game. Hell, I'm amazed someone hasnt approached Microsoft with plans to sell achievement points outright (I could toss a joke about Avatar, but that's been beaten to death.)

The problem that I have with this situation is that it utterly destroys the merits gaming. No longer is there any reason to play a game. You purely power through it to get achievement points and then move on. One particular occurance of this was surrounding the launch of Penny Arcade's new game. (Great game by the way, very good if you're a fan of the site) A site i frequent decided that it would have an achievement contest, whereby the first to get all achievements would get to brag about having done that. No longer is merely getting the achievements, enough of an achievement for these people, they must now create further achievements out of achievements. With that game especially, I felt that rushing through the game was a disservice to the title. There are lots of little touches in the game that if you ployed through solely to get the achievements you could very well overlook them.
Further worsening this is the fact that if consumer's dont care about the content of their games, then developers will gradually get lazier and lazier, knowing that so long as they provide the achievements, the games will practically sell themselves.

Basically achievements work when you are bragging about having achieved a specific achievement over your buddies. But the overall gamerscore needs to be shot in the back and left for the dead until it gets a revamp or a reclassification of achievement points (maybe achievements earned in any game specifically aimed at 4 to 12 year olds should have their points classified under a seperate gamerscore. While hardcore games get their own as well.
Because honestly does anyone really care that you have 50,000 achievement points. I mean bravo you have played through over 50 games of which at least 35 had to shitty games that werent even worth playing except for your little achievements.
Hopefully a revamp of achievements does occur with the next iteration of the Microsoft console, but for now the system works pretty well and is indeed fun. Unless you're achievement whore in which case i reserve a special level of hatred just for you.

But that's all i got for now.
So Ciao.