Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Too Human To Keep Going

Too Human has been sitting in my pile of un-played games for quite some time. The combination of tales of astronomical development costs, a great story rooted in Norse mythology and equal amounts of praise and levelling criticism from the press left me unsure whether to take the plunge and play the game. I had hopes that the positive words from half the gaming community would be well founded and leave me with the sense that this title should have played long ago, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the negative reviewers were onto something.

A few days ago I finally popped the game in and applied the updates (a grumble for another day) and started on my adventure. Having long ago played the demo I was partially prepared for the horrors of having the camera control that should be mapped to the right stick of the 360s control pad being the melee stick, but it still felt unnatural and I spent the first few hours of play attacking when I really wanted to change the camera perspective. Having chose a character class and worked out the inventory system, my character was beginning to level up and become more powerful as more and more abilities became available.

The hack and slash game play and level design is where opinion will, and has, been split. The combat is very simple yet allows for a certain amount of tactical flair. We're not talking about anything close to the levels of flair achieved by the truly breath taking fluid combat of Ninja Gaiden II (oddly another game with a messed up camera), but a combat system that is relatively solid and serves its purpose. The levels are painfully repetitive, very little exists to separate them from each other as they all have the same steam-punk-esque aesthetic, utilising similar set pieces that essentially throw different combinations and amounts of enemies at you.

This leaves you with a horrible feeling of repetition. The story feels like little more than window dressing as you spend the game wading through wave after wave of identical opponents. This was where I gave up. I hate when any game gets to the point where I have to put it down, the only exception being where games are so obviously broken or badly programed that I wish to have never picked them up in the first place. This game however simply became boring. It's a shame because Too Human seems to have had so much potential and so much to offer but the implementation was wrong.

Opinion on Too Human is very divided, some gamers hold it in their top 5 games, some sit where I am and see it as repetitive and boring. I'm just giving you my opinion here and as I've yet to finish the game and don't plan to I won't be giving it proper review, just my thoughts. My suggestion is to pick it up and give it a go for yourself. Too Human goes for such a low price nowadays that I would recommend giving it a go just to see where you stand.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Return Of The Difficulty Curve

It's back. It has returned and in a place I should have expected it. It hit me hard in a place that I have experienced highs, lows and frustration. The Final Fantasy series has had me gripped since I played Final Fantasy VII way back in the 90s, once I had experienced my first taste of gripping story telling and a traditional turn based RPG I've been hooked on the genre and the Final Fantasy series. I've played the majority of the series but was always concerned about the junctioning and Guardian Force system of Final Fantasy VIII and subsequently gave the game a wide berth despite enthusiastic comments from the gaming community and even nagging from my own brother to give it a go. Finally I caved, re-bought myself and old PlayStation (I don't trust the backwards compatibility of PS3 since having troubles with a handful of games) and started to play. For the first 3 of 4 discs I was enthralled. The story was compelling, the visual style breathtaking and the junctioning system proved to be very enjoyable once I got the hang of it, the only Final Fantasy staple I missed was a genuine job system, but that's a minor complaint. I loved the characters, even the caricatured loner behaviour of the games protagonist couldn't put me off, I actually wanted him to get the girl, despite being the kind of guy you would happily glass in a pub.

The problems began around the end of disc 3 and spilled into disc 4. The difficulty curve went through the roof. The game had been steady up until now and only required the odd bit of levelling up every now and then to progress. Basically the game felt balanced. As I hit the metaphorical wall I had no other choice than to put some time in and level up my party to continue the game. I've spent hours and I'm still stuck. The same thing happened to me in Final Fantasy VII but I got over that and moved on, this just seems to be insane.

Why do game developers, in particular the Final Fantasy developers, have this need to put in this crippling feature. It almost seems to be some odd ploy to make you buy the game guide so you know early on all the tricks and secrets. It's really pissing me off because I've got to the point where I'm split between the need to put the game down and walk away (which I have almost done) and put some hours of grinding in to see the ending. I really want to know what happens to Squall and Rhinoa, in fact I'm desperate to know, but it seems an unfair price to pay to see the end.

Perhaps this is the reason that so few gamers see games through to the end. A crippling difficulty curve really is unnecessary, I understand that there needs to be something a bit more challenging towards the end of a game to allow a sense of achievement in the player, but I just want to see an ending. I've played this game for hours, I need closure.

Here's my open plea to game developers everywhere: Please keep the difficulty curve consistent, I'll except a boost to the difficulty at the end, but please stop pushing it so hard that the game stops being fun. It's unfair when you've invested so many hours to have the ending you deserve to see place on such a high plateau. In return I vow that more of my money will make its way to your pockets, that reviews will be more favourable and that I'll put you back on the Christmas card list. Deal?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

3 Months Later..

Like every video game amnesiac who ever lived, I've returned, slightly unaware of my surroundings but ready to batter the living shit out of anything that moves with my over sized sword until something makes sense, a newly found love dies, I revenge them by killing some bastard that some how relates to my past and I rediscover who I truly am. Put simply I've decided to pull my thumb out of my arse and return to the hallowed grounds of We Live In Games for a spot of blogging. Anyone still about?

This is for you...

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Barking At The Moon... Again.

God I hate it when the difficulty of games gets too high. You know, that moment when you find the vain on your forehead at bursting point and you struggle not to unload your wrath on the poor old controller? Well it's happening again. I've returned to the video gaming equivalent of crack that is Advance Wars, now on it's second DS iteration under the guise of Dark Conflict. Whilst the story and visual style in the cut scenes has changed, the game play remains the same, which if you're an Advance Wars fan is a fantastic thing. Trouble is, I haven't played Advance Wars for a really long time. The last title was released in 2005, and that was the last time I played Advance Wars, a good 4 years ago. So I'm a little rusty, but willing to prove that I still have what it takes to be a good tactician.

And I was, I plowed through the first few levels, and even took the side missions in my stride, but I should have known something was up when the side missions started to become a bit on the difficult side. Oh well I thought, might just stick with the main quest, that seems to be moving along at a reasonable pace. But then, it happened. Yup, the main quest is starting to become aggravatingly difficult. Oddly, the side missions have become easier. I may need to write a letter to Intelligent Systems to ask what they're playing at.

I know grumbling about an uneven difficulty curve is a bit of a petty thing to do, especially as previous entries into the Advance Wars series have had moments of insane difficulty, but I do remember getting along okay on the higher difficulty modes on the previous games. Maybe I've been blunted by mindless first person shoots. Perhaps my recent love for Unreal Tournament III is to blame. Either way way I'm going to keep at it, after all, if the difficulty curve remains this wobbly I can always trash it in a review. Isn't life grand?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

A Silver Lining

After owning Manhunt 2 for quite some time (well, before Christmas), I finally decided that it was time to give it a play. I had picked the game up for the Wii for a variety of reasons, mainly because I loved the first Manhunt on the original Xbox but also because of all the uproar from the censors and the legal battle that finally resulted in the game hitting retailer shelves. Yeah, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I decided on the Wii version because this was where the majority of the tabloid hate was directed, mainly due to the motion controls being used to implement a variety nasty of executions, and because I could at least kid myself into believing that I was buying a current generation title.

So, with everyone out of the house and the front room (home to my Wii mainly because as previously mentioned, Little Miss WLIG indulges in a bit of Wii Fit) available I decided to give it a go. The first thing that hits you is how outdated the game looks, it really looks like last generations graphics, and whilst the game suffered a year long delay I can't help but feel that this would still have been unacceptable when it was intended to be released. As this version is the edited version that finally got the green light for a release, all of the executions in the game are severely blurred, leaving your imagination to wonder what on Earth your trusts and shakes of the Wii remote and nunchuck are doing. A disappointment, but an expected one.

Where the game really fell flat was in the control scheme. A part of me wonders if Rockstar knew they where releasing this poor excuse for a game, broken. Stupid mistakes like putting a lean control onto the nunchuck, meaning that you have to play with the nunchuck upright all the time, not using the pointer so that you can actually look around, and making it feel like you're controlling a tank rather than a person, ruined this game. I played through the first level and vowed to trade it in the next day.

Here's my silver lining. I paid just under £10 for the game a few months back. Thanks to a good deal on trading in Wii games and a decent trade in price at Blockbuster, I got £12 store credit for it. I felt that I deserved those extra £2 after my brief yet traumatic play of the first level. So I traded it in and picked up Unreal Tournament III (UT3) for PS3 brand spanking new for only £12.99, an extra 99p out of my pocket. Am I glad I did that, UT3 is so very, very awesome. And I mean that in a huge guys with too much armour and guns that say I don't even need a penis, I have this, kind of way. And they do it well. The whole thing looks beautiful in a very gritty realistic manner and plays at a break neck speed. I haven't even touched the multiplayer yet, been having too much fun playing with the cunning AI bots. That alone blew me away, the fact that whilst not perfect, the AI was actually pretty decent. A rarity in this gaming climate. Plus, getting this on PS3 means that you get two add on packs for free, plus a whole wealth of community made stuff.

All I can say is thank you Manhunt 2, for being a complete pile of turd, without your broken controls and dated visuals, I would never have had you to trade in, and most likely wouldn't have picked up UT3. Every cloud has a silver lining, right?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Rotten Milk Found In The Fridge

Okay, confession time. You may have noticed that things have been awfully quiet around here of late, you may be angry, you may even be upset, but whoa, don't go rounding up the mob quite yet, I've been away and brought you all excuses for presents. So, after the last time I posted here, I had an insanely busy week and pretty much survived without sleep for some time while I toiled away, making sure I met real life deadlines. Here's the part where you may need some tissues. After this insane work load I took a break, visited some family, tried to catch up on some sleep and generally have a go at feeling human. During this break, I did skulk off to see my bit on the side, Frugal Gaming. As I'm sure I've already mentioned, I do a wee bit of writing for Frugal from time to time, some of it actually decent. Unfortunately I had to make a decision on where to share my limited free time, and I'm afraid I decided that my personal rant space would have to be neglected while I concentrated on getting some work done for them. Can you ever forgive me? I promise, I never meant to hurt you!

Anyway, as I hope you've noticed, the new Frugal Gaming site is up and running and generally looking pretty trendy. Tragically they've got a really nice bunch of people over their and I've even been suckered into a bit of forum trawling, something I haven't stooped down to for some years.

Hopefully we'll have things back on track over here relatively soon, but until then you'll find my writing over on Frugal Gaming, but just to tide you over, here's a couple of recent reviews I did for them, ciao darlings!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Is OnLive The Next Step?

Earlier today OnLive was announced at GDC. For those of you who missed the announcement, OnLive has set out with a pretty original approach to covering all of the bases as far as multi-platform gaming is concerned. The system works by having either an application on your PC or a set top box in which you choose which games you want to play on. The games will be made available to you on day of release, just as they currently are by providers who make direct to drive games, but here's where things get interesting. Rather than downloading the game to keep, the game is merely streamed to you as you play. So rather than risk any piracy from downloading or have any physical media that can be copied, the games are on the other side of the world, but being transmitted to your TV or PC. And in HD, depending on your internet connection. Basically, because the service is streamed, you're able to play demanding games that would require you to own either a high end PC or current generation console, on your old laptop or TV. It sounds like a great idea.

All the talk from those speculating about the next generation of consoles being free from any need for physical media and relying solely on downloaded media, seems to have been justified, just not in the sense that many probably imagined. From the what has been said, the system seems pretty solid, but whether or not the system will work will have to be seen to be proven. Can the company honestly promise no lag if hundreds of gamers are streaming the same game at the same time? Will the controls feel quite as responsive if the signal from your control input has to travel over an internet connection? Only once the service becomes available will it be possible to answer these questions.

For now, the big question that enters my head is, am I ready to give up my physical media for this. So far there's no controller for the set top box, which to me makes it seem unfinished, because as per usual, I prefer to have official peripherals rather than spinning the wheel of chance on third party ones. I'm once again a bit on the fence here. A part of me wants to get excited about this, a machine that could truly change the dynamics of the gaming industry. But a part of me knows that this could just as easily be the next 3DO and be destined to flop. Don't know about you, but I'm excited to see how this one pans out.

It turns out that I was premature in questioning the existence of the controller, here it is complete with the set top box: