31 July 2011

Assassin's Creed Bro

Alright, so here we go, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (ABS or Ass creed bro). This is the third game in the Assassin’s Creed series. Our hero is Ezio Auditore, a renaissance Italian who, fresh out of the last game, gets thrown into a new situation that requires his hidden blades to be implanted into the soft gooey bodies of the Borgia.
So this entry takes place right after the second game, so if you haven’t played that, you’re not going to understand what’s up with this one. If you have played that…well it’s pretty much that. You run, you jump, you stab, and all of it’s done really really well. This brings me to the biggest gripe I had, the controls.  Now please don’t take this the wrong way the controls are really tight and smooth and really work well…most of the time. I don’t know if it’s my perception, but when I play games like Mirrors edge, or Assassin’s creed, the further I get and the more I play, the more I notice when I screw up. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting better at the game and I notice more of my imperfections, or if the game has gotten sloppier.
                So this becomes perfectly evident in the last parts of the game which you have to make these perfect jumps which can become infuriating! I don’t want to spoil anything, but I have to ask….if there is only one way to go, why would I be able to jump another way? Yes that might make it too easy, but I want to feel like a badass at that point. I’ve spent the entire game honing my skills, so why can’t I just feel awesome for making those jumps and move on instead of raging at the controls or camera for another 20 fucking cockslurping minutes.
                One of the features that I feel gets looked over would be the little snippets of info you get when you find a certain person, or climb a certain building. They’re usually like a paragraph or two long and give a little bit of history about what you’re climbing all over. Now being Italian and actually liking the time period and history of this game, I might be a little more into this than most others.
The other big new feature is the “Brotherhood” part of ACB. You’ll go around helping out poor little townsfolk and in turn they will pledge their allegiance and start with the murdering.  By the end of the game you’ll have a small white hooded platoon and can overcome a lot of trouble by sending them in to go kill people you’re too good for, sort of like some stabby white lemmings. The game also has a small RPG feature with your posse, you pick a few of your pawns and fling them across Europe to do different things like murder a politician or protect a banker or pick up the dry-cleaning. This earns them XP and then they level up until their ready to become fully fledged assassins. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t mind an Advance Wars style game involving the brotherhood or maybe a Civ 4 type of Turn based strategy minigame, or hell even its own game. Halo got something like that, so why can’t Ezio’s crew?
                Now this game isn’t really much of a technological upgrade from the second one, and you know what? I’m ok with that; there aren’t a lot of clipping issues which I find REALLY annoying. You know, when a characters hair goes through his jacket or someone’s cape flows through their sword as opposed to around it. Yes I know that it takes a lot of power to do that sort of thing but it makes me oh so happy to see that. Also this game will make sweet sweet love to the “large panoramic” shots of the world part of your brain.  Ubisoft knows that people like to climb up really high, look around and then throw themselves off into a conveniently placed hay bale, so it’s good that they didn’t mess with that formula. Oh and from the highest point of the game, you can literally see the curvature of the earth and your house…it’s quite the sight.
                Should you get it? Well that depends, if you’re really really into this series, than you probably have already, if you like it but aren’t sure  if this is just an expansion, get it, at least try it, the multiplayer is a fun time waster and if you’re like me, you thought ASII was just too short, so that alleviates that. Though I would recommend that you play through the story again real quick or look up a guide or something because for me, it was too long of a gap and I found myself asking who people were a lot of the time.  If you haven’t been into this series or just noticed it, go play the others first, then make your decision. It’s fun and well done, and more of what you’ve come to expect. Hopefully when the series ends they’ll come out with some sort of box set of all these games so you don’t have to wait the painfully long years between them.

Whew...ok a little long, but I think you get it....


18 July 2011

AAA Titles and Below

So there seems to be a problem with the game grading system. Everybody knows it, yet it still hasn't been fixed. Watch this for a great video that touches on the topic: http://bit.ly/lDVNnW. It seems that, although payoffs are getting less frequent, fear is still inside of the industry. AAA titles get away with murder of the genre without even a glance from any critics or reviewers. But what about games that are published by lesser known companies, or possibly have a lower budget? I'm a big fan of Official XBOX Magazine, being mostly an XBOX gamer. But their reviews are no better than any other online company.

Let's look at two titles, shall we? Halo Reach: http://bit.ly/pW94Il. Brink: http://bit.ly/n0t7Wr. Now looking at these games, we can see major differences. Sure, Halo is probably undisputedly the better game, but there are similar problems. Let's start with single player. Single player in both games is painstakingly annoying. In both, the enemies are a lot smarter than friends. Many times in Halo: Reach, the marines, ODST, or SPARTANS would just stand around and complain about being shot, as if I was supposed to be, dare I say his name, Master Chief. I'm not a one man team. I am noble SIX out of SIX, and evidently specialize in being everybody's bitch.

Now let's look at Brink. Where should I start? Brink was a great concept, and I'll still defend that. Sure I sold it back to Gamestop for ten dollars, but that doesn't mean it didn't have its moments. The story wasn't very creative, but it was substantial enough for a game based around multiplayer. The real problem occurs when the multiplayer does nothing different. Halo may take its maps from campaign, but they don't copy and paste. But what did OXM complain about with Brink? "Atrocious A.I." What's different about this A.I. and the A.I. in Halo? Oh, right. Everyone has the same amount of health. At least Brink tries to be fair by offering enemies who can't resist damage like they're wearing twenty meter thick, bulletproof armor. Sure your teammates forget that there's an overall objective, and run by enemies sometimes, but at the end of the day, you CAN do most of this alone. Along with having multiple classes with specialized abilities? Sign me up.

Another complaint about Brink was its "pointless story". Reach had a good story, sure -- especially for a Halo game. There was character development, beautifully rendered cutscenes, and substance. Brink had a story that, despite being ridiculous and slightly overused, offered two separate play throughs. But to call Brink's story pointless would also be to call most stories pointless. Brinks story was more overshadowed due to the story being incorporated into multiplayer, but it was not at all pointless. Reach's story really touched some, while it left others slightly offset. A story that portrays a character as being bad ass should have a bad ass character. The ending sequence, showing the death of Noble Six doesn't really do much because he could do things that even I couldn't do. While the ending level was a great concept - giving an impossible objective that would lead to the ending sequence, playing on legendary just wasn't the same as watching the story. Cutscenes that show my character punching an Elite once for a kill, while in-game it took about four hits just ultimately shows a detachment from game to story. So to call a story that is integrated into the gameplay pointless and not call a story that separates gameplay and storyline is just a tad bit ridiculous.

The final negative I can compare between the two in the reviews is "objectives offer little variety". This I can agree with. Perhaps if there were slayer matches, or if the development team went the extra mile to really add something new to the multiplayer it would have been fine. As it happens, the multiplayer element fell short -- way short. Brink fails to deliver anything memorable from multiplayer because multiplayer and campaign are the same thing. In that respect, OXM is right. Although Halo uses portions from its campaign maps, they expand upon those portions, catering them to multiplayer. Halo's one saving grace is that the multiplayer is separate from the matchmaking, and it has support from the team to update the maps, add new maps, add new game types, and so forth. Overall though, it's an addictive multiplayer experience, but it can feel a bit repetitive at times.

Now, I'm not saying Halo: Reach is horrible. I play it almost every night. I'm not saying Brink deserves a better score. A 4.5 is what it received, and that seems pretty fair given all of the bugs. There is certainly a large amount of other problems that contributed to the bad rating. But let's rethink Halo: Reach's score. Did it really deserve a 9.5? No. It isn't an insanely flawed game, but it certainly isn't near flawless. If we're ever to fix the rating system, we mustn't be afraid to tell the developers what they need to hear. You dun goofed. Maybe if developers learn what they did wrong, instead of being praised only for what they've done right, we'd all be better off for it. I'm a fan of a 100% rating system, and am not afraid to say that Halo: Reach can get no better than an 87% from me. As for Brink, if you still own it, enjoy your shiny mini frisbee before it breaks -- or sell it for ten dollars and buy a real one.


13 July 2011

A Look at Catherine (the Demo)

After playing the demo of Catherine, it left such an impression on me, that I had to write something about it, so here goes. The button layout for this game isn't innovative, but everything is where it should be. The in-game tutorial doesn't throw everything at the player at once, but instead paces it so the player only learns the mechanics as they become available or necessary. The difficulty levels (the demo only allows for easy) seem like they will be well-scaled. Even on easy, it offered a slight challenge. Hard will not be just a name. From what I hear of the Japanese version, it will be difficult.Speaking of gameplay mechanics, the morality mechanic offers an interesting twist. Our protagonist, Vincent, converses via text message, and depending on what you choose, Vincent's emotions will change throughout the game. No idea how much this will affect the story, but +points for innovation. At first the way the different things you can text seemed a bit tedious to navigate: pressing A, then B, then A again for a different message, cycling through with this method to see all of your options. But looking back at it, even I text like this -- writing something, erasing it, rewording it, repeat. The text message system allows a connection between player and protagonist, giving a realistic portrayal of life, rather than some Hollywood crafted drama.

The story itself actually seems rather compelling. This is definitely going to be a game unlike many others, if any others. Without more to go on, I can't really comment further (especially since the game has already released in Japan). The horror plays well into the story, by offering an uncanny, other worldly affect to it. Even during the demo, one specific part set my hairs on end. Combining horror with a puzzle-based, story-driven, platformer is something I don't think I've ever seen done. Integrating that many genres into one game can either lead to a masterpiece or a train wreck. Hopefully Atlus worked out a way to allow them to all compliment each other, rather than compete for the spotlight.

Sometimes the animations are beautifully rendered... but then something happens. The characters go off into a different art style. Maybe this has something to do with the contrast between dream and realty, but there is such a shift in the art design that it's almost overbearing. But since we're talking about graphics, they are shifty to say the least. There are no texture popping issues, but at points, the characters look more like cardboard cutouts than animations. The level of detail extends from "We just HAVE to get this crack in the brick right" to "Eh, it looks good enough... I guess." More important than graphics, though, is the grand color scheme and the aesthetics of the environments. This is such a welcome change from the brown-grey color scheme of all of the Unreal powered games out there today. If the full game keeps the pace of the demo, there's definitely a great title out there just waiting to be enjoyed.


06 July 2011

Welcoming ourselves!

The once tumblr account is now being moved to blogger for both ease and convenience! Oh boy! This definitely will work much better.