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Bloodborne avatar 7:31 PM on 11.07.2007  (server time)
My Recently Played: Hellgate: London and Guitar Hero III

What a great couple of weeks it's been for games. I've managed to get my hands on two of the titles I'm sure many of you have heard of: Hellgate: London for the PC and Guitar Hero III for the PS2. One of these titles I adore, the other . . . not so much.

First, I'll get the bad out of the way. Hellgate: London is the new game from Flagship Studios, headed up by Bill Roper. Before forming Flagship, Roper and crew worked at Blizzard Entertainment on a little game series known as Diablo. Given the pedigree of the developers working on Hellgate, I expected the next great action-RPG. What I got, however, was an unremarkable dungeon crawl with highly repetitive gameplay and environments.

At its core, Hellgate is a game in the vein of the Diablo series: you create a character who uses either magic, melee or long-ranged attacks, fights tons of different enemies and collects massive piles of loot. Hellgate even brings in the randomization that Diablo had, which makes for endless iterations of the game's areas. But that's where the connection to brilliance ends for Hellgate. The game simply becomes boring because the gameplay is just too slow, which makes the game draaaaaag. Whereas in most action-RPGs, the excitement comes from quickly mowing through hordes enemies, Hellgate has you fighting one enemy at a time, each of which takes at least a couple blows to land. After ten hours with the game, I was upgraded to the occasional group of three to four. Bosses are few and far between. In fact, I think I never saw one boss in the entirety of my play, just “named” mobs who dropped a few extra pieces of loot. The game simply does a poor job of keeping you engrossed in the game, and as a side effect makes your character feel weak and unimportant.

The next issue I had was with the environments. Usually with RPGs of any type, you are treated to everything from grassy plains to snowy peaks to deep forest and everything in between. A variety of environments keeps the game fresh and the sense of adventure alive. However, Flagship was doomed from the onset in this regard: Hellgate: London takes place almost entirely (you guessed it) in post-apocaliptic London, which means burnt-out street after burnt-out street with a sewer level thrown in for good measure. As for the randomization of these levels, you quickly start to see the same art assets merely arraigned in different ways. In many ways this doesn’t make sense in the context of a real-life city: how can a place as iconic as, say, Picadilly Circus, look so wildly different from visit to visit? I think that if each level was constructed by an artist instead of an algorithm, the player would feel more drawn into the world.

But not all is doom and gloom! I had the good fortune of picking up Guitar Hero III with my girlfriend (we love to co-op together). I’m going to say this up front: this is the most fun Guitar Hero of the bunch. The set list is simply amazing, covering a wide breadth of musical genres including some of the greatest rock songs of all time, like “Paint it, Black”, “One”, “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, and “Welcome to the Jungle”. Everyone will find at least a couple of songs they love.

The gameplay of Guitar Hero III is follows the old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But it damn if it isn’t super polished and still fun to play after all this time. I really feel that Neversoft made this game with the Expert players in mind (of which I am one). Some people complain that the songs are too difficult, but for long-time players, they will appreciate the challenge. With one notable exception, being more difficult doesn’t mean more aggravating, and in fact makes the game feel more than ever like you’re playing a real guitar (which I do). The only song I’ve had issue with is “Before I Forget” by Slipknot. The game is chord city and a pain on your hands and eyes to play. Neversoft should have looked at “Laid to Rest” on Guitar Hero II for an example of how to do heavy metal right.

I’ve also appreciated the addition of the co-op career. My girlfriend and I went all the way though the game in that mode and enjoyed it immensely. It made the process of unlocking songs much more fun for the both us since we didn’t have to trade off playing.

Well, thanks for sticking with me through that wall of text. Next on my list of games to play is Super Mario Galaxy, which I sure I will have nothing but good things to say about. Until next time!

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