Hello, bloggers. I have been struggling with what direction to take The Buy it/Avoid it Report for a while now. Although I have always enjoyed writing it, lately I just haven't been buying much. Other than a few digital games here and there, I've mostly been renting games through GameFly in an effort to save myself some money. I've never been much of a collector so this just makes more fiscal sense.
So, because I'm weird and I can't write about games that I didn't actually buy
in a blog that makes purchasing recommendations, I changed the name. It's more for my sake than yours, I assure you. Also, "buy" and "avoid" aren't really opposite ideas, but "play" and "avoid" are. That makes sense, right? The only problem now is that I'm setting myself up for confusion between my "P/A Report" and the real PA Report
. Hopefully Ben Kuchera won't get too upset. Anyway, let's roll.
Going into this game without any expectations was, for me, an impossibility. I found it difficult to avoid making constant comparisons to the original Bioshock
. The lighthouse, the magic powers (known as Vigors this time), the impossible city built entirely around one man's belief, the recordings scattered throughout the world -- it all felt so familiar. And yet, it was very different in a lot of ways, too. Unfortunately, not always for the best.
Let me just say, the city of Columbia is undeniably gorgeous. It captures the feeling of the time period perfectly and is an absolute marvel from beginning to end. Also, I absolutely love the sky rails. The feeling of leaping to and from them was exhilarating every time, and they really nailed the roller coaster vibe they were going for. Though the guns in general are fairly uninteresting, the shooting itself does feel tighter. This may be a side effect of fighting in much larger environments, but overall it was a definite improvement over the original. And the music? Oh my god, the music!
Amazing beyond words.
However, the story (which was what I was most excited about) failed to resonate with me. It's strange because I liked Elizabeth as a character, but I felt like the developers shoehorned her into the gameplay in way that just came off as rushed. Her ability to open tears was nothing more than a parlor trick for Booker to use during combat, which is disappointing because it had so much potential. The ending, which I won't spoil, did have some truly great moments, but ultimately felt very separate from the rest of the game. It's sad to say, but the whole experience came off as condensed, compromised and cobbled together.
because the brain of Ken Levine produces some of the most ambitious and fantastic concepts that video games have ever seen.
because the original Bioshock
set a bar so high, anything bearing its name must now be a masterpiece or nothing at all.
Fun fact: The original Darksiders
was the very first game I "reviewed" in this blog. I liked it a lot. Sure, it borrowed almost everything from other games, but it did it well, and I respected that. The sequel follows that trend, taking elements from loot-heavy games like Diablo
and melding them with the combat from God of War
and the environmental puzzles from Zelda
. However, its Darksiders II's
sense of style that sets it apart from the aforementioned games. Like any game with such a strong look, its bound to be polarizing for a lot of gamers; you either like it or you don't. Personally, I like it.
I found Death to be a lot more fun to play than his brother War. He's faster, more agile and doesn't look like a fridge wrapped in a blanket. He does sometimes resemble someone attending a Korn-themed Renaissance Faire but I found that charming in its own way. The world was a lot bigger, too, in terms of both area and scale. Massive stone statues and huge characters are everywhere, which honestly makes Death look pretty scrawny. He can hold his own, though, and consistently outsmarts his larger foes using his size and speed to his advantage. Combat is roughly 80% of this entire game, so it's a good thing that it feels really satisfying.
Almost everything you kill drops loot in this game. Though I didn't get fatigued by this as much as in Borderlands
, it was still a little much. Anything that takes me out of the experience and forces me to navigate a menu better be quick and easy, and unfortunately that is a major flaw for this game. The map, inventory screen, upgrades and missions were all tied to one button, which made opening up the pause screen and searching for what I needed a chore every time. A game this big needs
a dedicated map button, period. There are also a lot of awkward load times scattered throughout the game which began to grate on my nerves. Perhaps bigger isn't always better.
if you can appreciate a game that's heavy on the mashy combat and light on the character development and meaningful plot.
if the screenshots turn you off because this game is fucking long and the style never ever lets up.
>> Dead Space
is my jam. I've never found myself wanting it to be more horror or more action; I love it just the way it is. The gore is visceral (hurr), the setting is super neat and the lack of a HUD is one of my favorite features ever
. It's almost ignored at this point but health, stasis, directional markers, video communications and your inventory screen are all displayed on (or projected from) Isaac's suit. They are woven into the game itself and add to the creepy, sci-fi atmosphere. I think it's freaking brilliant. But that's a feature in all Dead Space
games, so what makes this one different?
One of the biggest changes is weapon crafting. It might not sound like a big deal but I found it to be immensely satisfying after a little practice. Weapon parts can be found all over the place, taken to the B.E.N.C.H. and assembled into many classic and new weapons. They could also be imbued with different effects which add an extra layer of variety. Two examples of weapons I made were a cryo-flamethrower with a force gun attachment and a burst-fire assault rifle with an underslung electric shotgun. Weapon parts could be used indefinitely so if I needed to switch it up, I just deconstructed and started from scratch. Universal ammo for all weapons was a slight downer, though.
For the record, I was never forced nor tempted to mess around with any microtransactions. It's easy to point the finger at EA and claim their taking advantage of impatient people but, honestly, my playthrough was not affected at all by their inclusion so I couldn't care less. They are easily ignored, and that's a good thing. The co-op, however, was not as easy to ignore. A few locked doors I came across suggested that I invite a friend in order to play. And Carver (who a co-op partner would control) just sort of pops his head in randomly during the single player campaign. It was strange but I definitely prefer this method to the alternative of having a constant AI controlled co-op partner getting in my way all the time.
because killing nightmare flesh monsters in space is cool and wearing really badass space suits is cool, too.
because EA made it.
In Far Cry 3
you play as a 20-something douche bro named Jason Brody who single-handedly takes on an entire island of mercenary killers in order to save his awful friends. Now, I'm not the type of person who needs a really good reason to run around and shoot up and entire island. Just give me a gun and I'll conjure up my own motives if I have to. I think what bothers me most about this game is that it tries to take itself very
seriously even though the story and characters are all really goddamn dumb. The only thing Vaas accomplishes by being great is making everybody else look that much worse.
Silly story aside, the gameplay is solid. As almost everyone who's played Far Cry 3
will tell you, clearing outposts is an absolute joy. There are many ways to go about it and even when your master plan turns to shit, it's still fun. Once cleared, you'll find various hunting and assassination missions on the bulletin boards which can lead to better equipment and more experience. There are also radio towers that need to be climbed and disabled, which allow you to see more of the map, which in turn lets you see more outposts. It forms a surprisingly compelling gameplay loop which unfortunately (or fortunately) doesn't involve the campaign at all.
There are some strange design choices, I found. Plants that can be harvested are clearly marked on the minimap (which is fine), but also flash white in game so they are IMPOSSIBLE to miss. Besides being unnecessary, I found it to be very distracting. Just let me enjoy the lush jungle landscape without constantly reminding me that I'm inside a videogame, please. Also, Jason Brody apparently has very brittle bones because very small jumps will cause him to break his thumb and wrist all the time. Oh, and tattoos magically appear on his arms when he learns new abilities because that makes sense.
because there is a lot to love about this game, even if almost none of it involves playing the campaign.
because at one point you have to burn a marijuana field with a flamethrower while dubstep plays in the background. Seriously
Now here's a game that knows exactly what it is and executes that concept almost flawlessly. Sleeping Dogs
is about an undercover cop who's tasked with infiltrating a gang in Hong Kong. It's certainly not a unique idea, but it facilitates this type of open-world gameplay very well. People who want to be the good guy but wreck a bunch of cars and beat up lots of dudes in the process will feel right at home here.
Subpar driving mechanics can make or break games like this but, thankfully, the vehicle controls feel very natural in Sleeping Dogs
. It's really fun to speed up behind someone on the highway, leap out onto the roof of their car, toss them out onto the street and slide in the drivers seat all without ever dipping below 70 mph. Guns are actually fairly scarce for a majority of the game, which is great because the melee combat is really satisfying. It's all about bone-breaking counter attacks, flying jump kicks, melee weapons and environmental hazards. I'd often just beat up innocent people in the streets; that's how fun it was.
What I wasn't expecting was for the story to be as compelling as it was. A big part of that was how well the characters are voiced, Wei Shen in particular. Being an undercover cop, he's obviously trying to blend in as well as get the job done. As the lines between good and bad begin to blur, it's hard not to empathize with him. I went into this game expecting some kung fu gangster action with a weak story, but came away very, very impressed. It's a fucking shame about that karaoke minigame, though. Holy lord that was the worst.
because the streets of Hong Kong are corrupt as shit and all those delicate gangster legs aren't going to break themselves.
if you're annoyed by Asian accents and bright, neon lights.
If you had told me a couple years ago that the new Tomb Raider
game would knock my socks off, I probably would have laughed in your face. I had roughly zero respect for Lara Croft and assumed her popularity had simply stemmed from her big boobs and short shorts. However, when this reboot came around and I started seeing footage, I instantly noticed a difference. Lara was filthy, cut up, bruised and beaten but had a fire in her eyes that wasn't there before. She looked tough as hell. All of a sudden she was a compelling character.
This game does so many things right that it's ridiculous. The environments are incredible looking but also brilliantly constructed. Linear paths bleed into huge, open areas with tons of secrets to discover. Running, jumping and climbing are all tuned perfectly. It's simply a joy to traverse the environments, and the animations for every movement are simply fantastic. You get Lara's signature bow very early in the game and can upgrade it extensively. It was so fun to use that I often forgot that I was even carrying guns at all. I didn't need them.
There are lots of cinematic moments in Tomb Raider
that feel heavily inspired by the Uncharted
games. Yes, I see the irony in that statement. Stuff will crumble or break at the worst times and Lara will have to make countless life-or-death leaps before the credits roll. The main difference here is that the theme of survival is constant. She may survive a terrible fall, but she'll land on a piece of rebar and have to pull it out herself. The character you start as and the character you finish the game as are two completely different people, and you get to witness the entire transformation. It's an incredible journey.
if you are craving a cinematic adventure with perfect pacing and impressive production values.
if you're bad at quicktime events because the death animations are almost too violent to have to watch over and over again.
That's it folks. This was a long one but it had been a while since the last issue so I guess I was making up for lost time. Thanks for reading! See you next time.