Monday, 27 May 2013

Tomb Raider Review

So, I'm a bit behind the times with games these days. While people are having fun playing the sequel to one of my all-time favorites (Metro 2033), I'm just finishing up with Tomb Raider.

Anyway, here's the gist of it. The game is good. If you've ever played Uncharted, think that. Lots of climbing and shooting and environments blowing up and breaking apart and last second jumps to salvation - basically, it's like playing a Hollywood blockbuster action flick.

Is that good? Well, sometimes. But the game really got away from the original adventure aspect of it, with pretty much nothing I could consider a "puzzle" in the game. At most there's 2 switches or some object you need to use your rope-pull on, but it's all pretty obvious and this is a complaint I've heard from many.

On the flipside, the game takes you through a pretty neat environment, an isolated island with constant storms  that demolish any nearby ships or planes. The so-called enemies in the game are mostly all survivors of said crashes, but who are brought under control of a pretty psychotic leader. Basically, the island used to be home to an ancient Japanese tribe with an immortal leader who could control the storms, and now that she (the Queen) is dead, the storms are raging crazily. The psycho survivor leader thinks he needs to perform the ancient sacrificial rituals involving any women he finds, in order to appease the Queen and get off the island.

Our hero, Lara Croft, is quite young in this game - in fact, it's her first big adventure. The character development is quite well done, as she starts off as a scared and poorly equipped survivor looking for help. In the end, she's quite the bad ass and is dead set on her mission. Overall, it's quite enjoyable and fun to get through the campaign.

There's collectibles and the like to be found, but only the Scrap is of any use - the rest is just busy work to hit 100% at the end. Scrap can be used to purchase/construct weapon upgrades. In addition, you occasionally find a weapon part in the scrap boxes, and with 3 or 4 weapon parts you can upgrade the whole gun. For example, the scrap might let you put leather on your wooden bow for better grip/accuracy, but with the upgrade parts you can turn the wooden bow into a composite bow (all upgrades carry over).

My final thoughts are this: it's a well made AAA action adventure video game, but lacks the gameplay depth I was hoping for in the form of some complex puzzles and secrets. It's a nice, casual, and entertaining romp and certainly worth playing if you enjoy cinematic 3rd person shooter games, but it doesn't do anything special and will probably be forgotten by the time we get to our year-end top 10 roundups.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Dead Space 3

Well, I know this might be a little late but I beat Dead Space 3 and needed some time to simmer on it.

First and foremost, there's 2 things I feel I need to talk about. One, is the micro transactions. EA, the publisher, seems to have decided that micro transactions are the future - at least for their games. So, for Dead Space 3 (DS3), they added micro transactions in the form of upgrade supplies. Basically, at any time you could spend your real life dollars on in-game materials in order to build more health packs, ammo, or weapons. I'll talk about this a little more later on, but while I was very worried about how micro transactions would affect the crafting components of this game, in the end my fears were not realized.

Co-op!? Damn!
The second major thing I want to talk about is co-op. No whether it is good or not, because I don't know (I played single player), but whether it should even exist and how it affected my game. I was a big fan of DS1. I didn't quite know what to expect going into it, and ended up completely in love with it. It may not have been a pure horror game, but it had a wonderful combination of scares, isolation, action, and especially exposition and story. In DS3, though, a lot of that seems to have gone out the window and I think co-op is kind of the blinking danger light warning us of this. The most frustrating part, though, is the times where there was a door locked to me because it was for "co-op only". Really?

Ok, so what about the actual game? You know, the shooting scary aliens' limbs off and exploring derelect space stuff... well, it was pretty good. The game definitely has become more of an action romp, with very few surprises. Enter room, necromorphs. Wait for elevator, necromorphs. Finally about to turn on a huge generator... necromorph boss thing. Etc. It is fun, though.

I enjoyed upgrading my guns once I got a few different things to try out and resources became a little less scarce. It was fun to change things up as the game went on, since you can only equip two guns (instead of 3 like previous games), but each gun can have up to guns essentially stuck together. I tried a lot of combinations, like dual plasma cutters, or plasma cutter with flamethrower, or rifle with grenade launcher. There's also small addons, like a scope, an ammo box that auto-reloads the gun, and even addons to give each shot a bit of fire, electric, or stasis.

Parts of the game have you fighting actual humans, and I must say those parts I found myself think "ok, let's just get through it and onto the next interesting bit". I mean, Isaac (the protagonist) might be a pretty hardened guy after his last two adventures, but I don't see him as the type of guy that can murder entire troops of soldiers - up until now he's almost only killed necromorphs. Not to mention, the "bad guy" was extremely cheesy and over the top.

The game was quite long, it must have taken me around 20 hours to complete. This is quite a bit different from the last games, and not necessarily for the best. I just found myself not really caring too much for what was happening. The few NPC characters were forgetful. Even in the first game when you don't see the NPCs I felt more attachment to them. In the first one, you're finding out all kinds of interesting stuff about what happened. You see video and read text logs of people who slowly went insane by the Markers. You piece together the puzzles of what happened, and figure out exactly what happened on the Ishimura - and it was terribly interesting. In DS3, you're entire goal is to end the Markers and so there's very little investment as the game has now become a hero-adventure.

Back to the co-op, besides the disappointment at finding doors locked to my single player experience, at least they made the co-op partner stay out of my game. Basically, he continually winds up on the other side of a door or broken passage or whatever and you end up taking different routes to the objective, so that you don't have a stupid NPC tagging along with you like in that Resident Evil game nobody likes.

My final thoughts are this: the game was mediocre. It was lacking in story and development, and is only a shadow of it's former brilliance (for those who appreciated DS1). While the first game was confusing, you felt like there was enough threads to piece it all together, but in DS3 the head scratching was more about what the writers were thinking. Bad plot devices move the story along, and in the end the game is only really saved by it's interesting crafting feature and still pretty intense action scenes, even if they are horrible obvious.

Worth playing, but only because you've already played the other two... if you've never touched a Dead Space game, please just try the first and maybe leave it at that.