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September 27, 2009
Wet – Get Ready for some Monkey Business.
Every game has to start with an idea, but it’s rare to find a game that feels like it truly started with a vision. This one most certainly does. It captures the gritty, raw feeling of emerging action cinema and combines it with the modern stylization of slow motion combat and environmental manipulation. It’s fast paced, action-packed, challenging, full of interesting options and has an artistic charm all its own. Ah, and you can’t forget the creepy cymbal smashing monkeys you can collect! In short, Wet is what you’d get if you gave Quentin Tarantino the reins behind a video game development studio. It’s fun packed in a never-say-die main character, rolled in blood, guts, and explosions, and kicked in the face for good measure. Here’s the breakdown.
The game had a vision of style that it carries out flawlessly. The graphics are excellently crafted for its design, fit the motif at every turn and purposely gritty, which adds greatly to the experience. For those looking for a smoother feel though, the film-tear is optional, and can be turned off very easily from the options menu. The sound runs in the old school action movie clique and the music creates an energized atmosphere that will rock your socks. Controls are easy to learn and work well with the environment, giving you as many opportunities as possible to use the environment to your advantage and create a genuine movie-style play on the action. On top of this all, the interface is as simple as it gets, and it works out perfectly for the game. You’ve got a health bar, an indicator of which gun you currently have equipped and it’s ammo count. Everything else is all about the visual action. Wet gets a high five in the tech department, courtesy of its own merits.
The gameplay for Wet is fun, visceral, and rewarding, while at the same time being unforgiving in the vein of any true hardcore action flick. At certain stages of the game you’ll find yourself completely surrounded by continually spawning hordes of baddies, all bent on beating (or shooting) the hell out of you until you break the entrance controls to their spawn point. At other points it plays almost like a throwback to the old Dragon’s Lair game, or more familiarly, Indigo Prophecy, where on screen cues prompt you to press certain buttons in order to survive the challenge. It also mixes up the level designs, going from close quarters hack-and slash stages to balcony jumping shootouts, car chases and even more interesting and original stages I’d rather not ruin for you. The game certainly gets you engaged. You’ll quickly find yourself empathizing with the main character’s begrudgingly frustrated attitude towards her antagonists, and occasionally even her reluctant allies. No matter what way you look at it, Wet is downright fun, and it doesn’t punish you for losing the occasional firefight. Returning you to the nearest checkpoint if you die, which is always reasonably close by, it never seems like a chore to try again. Instead, it feels like a motivating “I’m gonna get that son of a *$&@^!” challenge. It’s a rare game that can make you feel happy to be running back for more after you just got whomped, but Wet does just that. And it’s all the more rewarding when you beat it the next time around.
Any way you look at it, Wet is a hardcore work of video gaming art.
The next review is still pending, I’m working on getting a way to post screenshots of console games without having to deal with the copyright nonsense from other review sites. Did find an interesting game on steam last week though that I wanted to review immediately following its release, but some things came up, so maybe I can get it some late exposure here sometime this week.
September 26, 2009
I’m looking into the addition of screenshots and potentially even in-game videos of the games being reviewed, but so far everybody who’s already got these things has them copyrighted and wouldn’t care for us using them here.
That has good and bad side effects. On the downside, it means I’ll have to do my own, which means more work for me, and regarding console games, I need to figure out a feasible way to do this. But on the upside, it also means I get to do my own! Which means I can specifically point out my applauds and my complaints regarding the games I review with a visual aid, lending more legitimacy to what I have to say.
I’m not sure if this will be implemented by tomorrow’s Single Player Sunday, when I review “Wet” on the PS3. But I’m hoping it will.
Alright, I’m out for the night. ~Lucjan
Or… Halo 3:OverDoneSequalTime?
Time and again in the entertainment business, be it the movies, video games, or even stand up comedy, there comes a time when something has simply been done to death. Sequals are rarely (many would say never) as good as the original work, and anything after that usually can’t even hope to hold a candle to how brightly the original shined. Halo 3: ODST, is not an exception to this rule. Halo captured the console shooter genre and held it in an iron grip until the release of Halo 2, which featured several improvements in gameplay and graphics, and even took us to Earth for a change of environmental pace. Admittedly, though, I lost interest in the series right around the time that Halo 2 hit the apex of its popularity. That being said, I never played Halo 3, because it seemed like a continuation of a series that already started singing the swan song of its golden age in the previous title. However, when Halo 3: ODST, promised a new perspective and a view of the Halo storyline from the eyes of the common footslogger, I was intrigued. And I certainly wanted to know if the designers were planning any interesting additions or innovations to the multiplayer aspect of the game. Needless to say, I was a little bit excited that the game might have gotten a face-lift with the new perspective, but here’s what I discovered…
ODST offers multiplayer play in two different ways. You can play together locally with up to four players on a single Xbox 360, or you can play on Xbox Live with friends or random people from around the world. The Xbox Live method is undoubtedly the more convenient one, and makes it much easier for everybody to play comfortably, as you’re not splitting a single screen between two or more people. Topping off the diverse options for multiplayer play were a whole load of different game styles, the ability to customize your own avatar so you appeared unique (in non-team games) to everyone in the gameworld, and Xbox Live’s solid options for establishing a game. You can choose between playing only with friends, or you can allow Xbox Live to link you up with anyone around the world. It even tries to keep the skill levels of the players within the same realm of ability by matching the ranks of players based on how well they’ve done in previous games. Connections were stable, lag was very infrequent, and I rarely waited for more than two or three minutes to match up with a party, regardless of how big or small my requested game type was. However, while all the necessary tools were there to make the game a fun multiplayer experience, all the other aspects of the game brought it down to a dull, boring, drawl.
If I’m not mistaken, it’s generally the preference of video game companies to introduce some kind of improvement in the graphical department when it releases a sequal to an already popular game. With ODST, I think it actually went the other way. Lots of jaggies and mediocre skinning make it look, to me, to be worse than I remember Halo 1 or 2. A near pitch black and colorless environment from the very beginning ruins the atmosphere of the game even before the next segment puts you into a “day-time” scenario, which does little to fix the dullness of your surroundings. Recycled structures, very empty environments and little imagination plugged into the level designs also make the experience hard to really engage yourself in. Controls have always been comfortable with Halo, but when you’re navigating a game that just feels empty, there isn’t much that good movement really does to enhance the gameplay. Sounds also feel recycled. I can recall each and every sound in the game from the ones I’ve played in the past, and forget about music. I know there was none in the multiplayer games, and if it existed at all in the single player campaign, it was completely unnoticeable. Music and sound are supposed to create an ambiance to the game that makes the player feel engaged and part of his environment, ODST doesn’t do this at all. There was a mild but unnecessary change to the interface with the inclusion of the VISR, and the new health bar doesn’t really do the game’s original design any justice. I couldn’t help but wonder, while I was playing, why these marines had a better interface system than the state of the art super-soldier you play through the first three games. In any case, I found myself so disengaged by the game’s complete failure to create any kind of atmosphere through its technical qualities that it was more of a chore than a joy to keep playing for the sake of assessing its actual gameplay aspects.
When I started playing, I was expecting an interesting, entertaining new perspective from the eyes of a footslogger. The regular, non-super-human soldier who’s fighting to defend his home planet from an alien menace that threatens his species’ entire existence should have a very unique perspective of things. Instead, I was force-fed a B-movie storyline that looked like it was written for a made for tv movie, with chunks stolen from every other halfbaked storyline ever written for a shooter. From the start of the game you’re subjected to the overly attractive female commander who looks like an anorexic supermodel but can somehow pull her weight with the best spec ops team the human race has to offer. Then there’s the cliche` love interest among her and her lower ranking officer, a rookie who somehow made it into said spec ops team but falls asleep moments before a critical mission, and then proceeds to romp through squad after squad of alien invaders like they’re a joke. I’ve seen this storyline any and every time I’ve turned on a made-for-tv-movie. It does absolutely no justice to the originality of the very first Halo, and comments made not long after allude to portions of the storyline from past Halo games. So even the storyline feels recycled because I’ve played through the same general plot line already.
There may be some mid-week reviews coming up this week as I’ve picked up a few other games that I’m hoping will clear my pallet after this mess. In fact, I’m even doing a special for tomorrow. Check back tomorrow for a Single-Player Sunday…for when playing with other people just pisses you off.
September 18, 2009
Or… Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Win?
In a market where “real-time strategy” typically floods the brain with images of mindless shootouts or slashfests between opposing armies of sprites, guided by the clickhappy fingers of an over-caffeinated teenager, Majesty 2 finally gives that index finger some room to breathe. Instead, it keeps things interesting by forcing you to think out your plans ahead of time, employing a method of strategy that actually does the word justice. The game is a remake of the well received classic released in 2000 that spawned an expansion and reasonably good scores from most gaming review sites at the time. In Majesty, you play the role of the ruler of a realm, able to dictate the construction of your city, what upgrades, items, and spells to research, and to recruit your heroes from a variety of different structures. This may all sound familiar, as it’s the standard fare for an RTS these days, but what makes it so unique is that your heroes aren’t mindless zombies, beholden to your every whim. You need to give them an incentive, and they have a mind of their own. Line their pockets with cash by setting objective markers and allocating gold to those markers, and they’ll do as you ask. But if they feel they’re being short-changed, they’ll do little more than sit around at the tavern drinking beer or go home and take a nap until you raise the price. Well…what did you expect? Nobody works for free. That said, let’s get down to business. This review will be broken down into 3 seperate sections, the multiplayer analysis, the technical quality analysis and gameplay analysis, followed by the overall review rating.
Majesty 2 uses gamespy to host its games, and it’s all accessible directly from the multiplayer option in-game. I spent about three hours playing through multiplayer games before sitting down to write up this review, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while the concept is sound, there are some hurdles in the way that are keeping it from truly shining like it could.
-Firstly, the maps are only designed for 1v1, 2v1, or 2v2 play, and the game seems to have a hard time shouldering the load of the 2v2 games. The 1v1 and 2v1 games ran like a charm, but having tried several times to get into a 2v2, I found that more often than not someone would lag out and the game would drop all the players back into the server lobby before the game even started.
-Secondly, it was a little difficult to get a game going. At any given time there were about 20 game hosts running, but at least 50% of those were password locked 1v1’s. So unless you know someone who also has the game and wants to give it a go, there is a few minute game of “sit-and-wait” before anything becomes available. Players were generally receptive of requests in the chat box to start one though, more than likely due to the fact that Majesty 2 is way more fun than Sit-and-Wait.
-Once in a game though, it plays just like the single player version, except you have a human opponent facing you down. So, while both of you contend with the npc baddies that want you dead, you also have to worry about what the other player is doing. On top of that, the game is balanced well enough that neither side makes any tremendous gains over the other too early in the game unless you spend your generous starting funds really poorly. This makes for strong player-vs-player and player-vs-environment gameplay even in the multiplayer sector, something that’s either one way or the other, but never quite both, with all the other RTS games out there.
-Multiplayer games were generally enjoyable, and only truly frustrating when my own noobish decisions led to me being stomped by the AI instead of the enemy player. Overall, the multiplayer in Majesty 2 is an enjoyable and unique experience. Hopefully good reviews and word of mouth will boost game sales and the population trying to get together for a game on Majesty 2 will increase, allaying half of my concerns over its functionality being a low host count. Aside from that, Paradox needs to get a patch out as soon as possible to fix the consistent drop issues being had with the 2v2.
Technical Quality Review
The game isn’t tremendously advanced in the graphical department, but it still manages to be very pleasing to the eye, and has a unique charm to it that takes you back to an almost “shrek-like” fairy tale world. It works well for the game, and coupled with equally fitting sound and an appropriately chosen musical score, there isn’t really anything bad to be said for the games audiovisual design. However, the interface and controls would occasionally conflict with each other, in that I wasn’t always sure if I had deselected something or not because of a lingering window at the bottom of the screen. For the most part though, the game works well in the technical deparment. It’s well put together and the room for improvement comes in the realm of minor interface changes or control tweaks.
The game proves itself to be a unique concept among the evergrowing list of copy/pasted RTS formulas. The story is well done and plays out in humorous, fairy tale fashion, as its predecessor did. Each map has different goals, tasks or handicaps and adds to the experience by including these variations to the game. The gameplay doesn’t have that smack of “I feel like I’ve done this a thousand times before”, and the multiplayer is enjoyable, challenging, and comes with a ranking system to reward you for your victories against a ladder of the other players. Generally, it’s a game that doesn’t feel like it’s going to get old fast, and I’ll probably find myself in the future saying “I wish more games tried to be more focused on fun like Majesty”, then dropping into a tirade about companies placing graphical quality over the fun factor.
So, I say…
CHECK BACK SOON! There are several games being released for the Xbox360 in the next couple of days that have a multiplayer focus to them, and I’ll be reviewing one of them (likely the one I have the easiest time getting my hands on for an evening). I don’t want to choose one specifically right now because there are several good prospects, but check back next Saturday for another review.
Most likely candidates are Halo 3:ODST, and Zombie Apocalypse.
September 16, 2009
Welcome to the new Multiplayer Hub! The hub now features a review section for review of the newest multiplayer games out there. Our very own lucjan (Aevum Obscurum), will take over the game review section. lucjan will post a new review every 30 minutes, ahh every 2 weeks whenever his time permits.
lucjan will make the first review available towards the end of this week. First game review: Majesty 2
Please come back later!