Metro 2033 was a very mixed game. On one hand, it had astoundingly terrifying atmosphere and interesting characters. On the other hand, it was broken, with terribly frustrating stealth and combat. Its sequel, Metro Last Light, fixes all of that, and is one of the better games I have played this year.
(Caution: I am about to spoil 2033, so if you have not played it yet, stop reading if you do not wish to be spoiled)
Last Light picks up a year after the events of 2033. You play as Artyom, the protagonist from 2033, who is now an elite ranger. He sets out to find the last of an alien species that was supposedly all wiped out at the end of 2033. Along the way he meets several quite interesting characters and becomes involved in an intricate and even intriguing political conspiracy that threatens all of Metro.
Last Light is an audiovisual feast for the ears and eyes. From the sharp character animations to the wonderfully detailed environments, the game is visually stunning. On the audio side, the voice acting has noticeably improved over 2033, the soundtrack is surprisingly immersive, and the best news is that the dreading atmosphere that 2033 was known for has survived here with the some of the most tense and downright scary environments I have ever had to go through abounding.
The big draw for me though is that combat and stealth are no longer broken. The game does seem to lean more on the combat heavy side, but at least stealth is fun now, not frustratingly mandatory to the point that if you are caught you may as well reload the game since your enemies have telepathic vision and aim as was the case with 2033. Level design has also improved to accommodate these improvements allowing you much more flexibility in how you approach situations.
I will admit that these improvements do make Last Light easier. However, the lack of frustration also allows me to spend more time soaking up the atmosphere and the story. The ironic thing is that although Last Light feels easier, it is much more enjoyable for it.
Last Light is a prime example of how sequels should be done. Take what was good and amp that up, while throwing out the bad and fixing what, literal, was broken. It reminded me of Uncharted 2 in many ways, and that, is one of the highest compliments I can give. Do yourself a favor and pick up Last Light.
Now that The Last of Us is settling in and people are enjoying it, I thought I would share my thoughts on my experience with the game. So here is my review from the Murfreesboro Pulse that I get to share with you all in advance in agreement with my boss.
I am really torn about The Last of Us. On one hand, it combines the best elements of many other great games: Farcry 3, The Batman Arkham games, Uncharted, and even the recently released Bioshock Infinite come to mind. It is a fantastic character driven tale of survival with incredibly satisfying gameplay. On the other hand, it damn near throws it all away with one of the most anti-climactic, emotionally detached, and torn endings I have had to grapple with. However, let us back it up and start from the beginning.
The Last of Us tells the story of Joel, a hardened veteran of 20 years of post-apocalyptic warfare against both zombies and human hunters. Mankind is devastated, the world has basically gone to hell, and frankly, it cannot get much bleaker. Enter Ellie, a 14 year old girl with a certain, gift shall we say, that needs to be taken across the country. As the tale unfolds, the two become very close, and you will enjoy every minute of it. It really is a tale of two against the world, and you will feel like you have earned whatever brief respite you get. Ellie is a surprisingly honed character and you will not only find her banter great, but her aid in battle both needed and just downright awesome. She really is the highlight of this game.
The gameplay is where the game shows a lot of shine, but also has a few rust marks. The game takes the successful, if at times clunky, Uncharted format with regards to both its mechanics and platforming, but infuses a much more stealth based, and VERY violent, emphasis. The game mixes stealth based combat with simple, but grounded platforming. It actually gives you a number of options to tackle a level. I managed to just run past my foes and make it to the exit. Huzzah! However, the most common, and frankly best, option is to carefully sneak around your foes and take them down one by one, using a combination of silent takedowns/kills, distractions, such as throwing bricks or bottles, and a ‘listening’ mechanic that allows you to hear your enemies’ movements so you can see where they are going, which borrows directly from the Arkham games. You can also concoct a couple of types of bombs as well as molotovs to burn your foes. You can also craft one hit kill additions to your melee weapons you pick up lying around as well as shivs to help break out of certain enemies’ grasps, or open doors you otherwise could not. A final thing you can craft is first aid kits which believe me, keep a full stack of at all times whenever possible. You can craft these items, as well as pick up various types of guns and ammo, from around the levels, and the game seriously encourages you to make the best of what you get. You can actually try to gun it out against your enemies, but the scarce resources, and the absurd durability of your foes make stealth the preferred option. The latter is the only major complaint I have about the combat, and is an irritant carried over from the Uncharted games. One blast of a revolver or shot gun to the face should be MORE than enough to take a regular bandit down, but you will find that is, frustratingly, not the case most of the time. A more minor compliant is how the guns handle when aiming. There is some tedious weapons sway and recoil, but thankfully these can be amended with the game’s leveling system. Picking up various pills, gear parts and tools, you have the ability to upgrade various stats such as reduced weapons sway, higher health, or gameplay advantages. Like your other resources, you will not be able to upgrade everything, so you best figure out what you like best and stick to maxing out those.
All this leads to some of the most intense and downright terrifying gameplay I have ever experienced. The game does a fantastic job of making it almost downright torture playing through each section, but unbelievably satisfying when you manage to survive. Never have I been so careful, so paranoid, and so scared to even move for fear of being discovered. There is also a great variety of levels and sections that really make for a very well-paced game. There was hardly a moment I was bored, or felt like something was dragged out longer than it should have been, and the game is always coming up with new and terrifying moments, some of which are etched into my brain.
It helps that The Last of Us is a gorgeous game. Yeah, it does not have the bells and whistles of modern day advanced graphics, but it manages to deliver a very pleasing aesthetic and design that reinforces the post-apocalyptic nature of the game. The soundtrack is also hauntingly effective and really adds to the anxiety of the confrontations as well as the emotions of the game’s sadder and quieter moments. The voice cast is exceptional, and lends real humanity and depth to their characters.
Alas, now we come to the disappointing ending. Now let me be clear, I really, really liked The Last of Us all the way up until the end, and after having some time to think about it and browsing through the internet for a sense of clarification and explanation, I GET this ending, I do. I can see what the writers and the directors intended, and I understand the arguments for it. However, here is the thing: I was completely emotionally detached from it. It is ironic considering that within the first ten minutes of The Last of Us I was hooked, creeped out, and crying, for the last ten minutes I felt nothing but emptiness and a lack of satisfaction. The whole last level feels almost hack-nyed, and kind of forced, especially after the excellent pacing I had mentioned earlier. In a way, it feels like this ending was concocted up precisely to generate talk and conversation, rather than it actually being fitting, because frankly, this ending does not fit, at least not for me.
Moving on from the single player, is The Last of Us’ multiplayer. While certainly not the draw of the game, it is admirable that it is not an afterthought either. The whole premise involves participating in matches in order to gain supplies to build and maintain your village. Win or lose, based on your performance, you gain supplies that grow and sustain your town. Granted, your villagers are represented as nothing more than moving dots on a map, but it does give you a sense of progress and in a fun feature, you can integrate your Facebook friends as villagers. It is actually quite amusing. As for the gameplay itself, it takes what you do in the campaign, and just adjusts it for multiplayer use. You have a selection of classes you can choose from, or create your own. You can buy equipment, ammo, and new weapons. On the map are various boxes with supplies for you craft bombs, molotovs, shivs, and other equipment. What is remarkable is how the campaign’s emphasis on stealth based combat translates surprisingly well here. If you are going to win, you need to be tactical and stealthy. I am frankly in awe at just how tense these matches can be, and from the time I have spent, which is admittedly, only a couple of hours so far, I see myself continuing to play for quite a while.
Suffice it to say, I was gearing up to name The Last of Us my favorite game of 2013 so far. However, that title still remains with Bioshock Infinite, another game with a talked about ending. The difference though, is that ending had my engagement, and my attention till the credits rolled (and after for those who stayed). I was done with The Last of Us by the time the last level sunk in. I still highly recommend The Last of Us, I really do, and hell, you will probably like the ending. If that is the case, more power to you.
(Note: I did encounter at least one game-breaking bug that prevented me from triggering an event. Restarting the encounter fixed it, so if you have problems, that should do the trick.)
So the reviews for The Last of Us are pouring in. Suffice it to say, tens and masterpieces are everywhere to be found; Destuctoid's own Jim Sterling gave it a 10/10. The game has been hyped to an incredible degree, and I am looking forward to playing it myself.
However, with great hype, comes great irresponsibility on the part of gamers, and The Last of Us proves this community has not really matured or evolved by any substantial measure, only continuous breaking up into more divided and rigid chunks.
First up to the shark tank was Polygon with the 'bravest', we shall say, review so far of 7.5. That is still a good score, even a very good score by some standards, but the internet would have none of it, and the review has received a delicious serving of nearly 1200 comments as of this writing. Take that Polygon, you filthy slime!
However, the absolute wrath of the insecure gamers' rage would be saved for Gamespot's devilishly low score of...an eight...yes, an eight, out of ten. A review so terribly blistering to gamers that Gamespot's on-site review has recieved an astounding 14,000+ comments so far; and let us not even get started on their youtube review. I will leave them both for you to see for yourself, beware, the rage is strongly stupid with this one:
This is, of course, not the first gamers lost their shit over a score they did not like. Nor is it the first time Gamespot, and even Naughty Dog, have come under fire.
Eurogamer got slammed for giving Uncharted 3 an 8/10. Having played the game myself, my personal opinion would have been lower on account of that game's third act collapsing, but that is my PERSONAL opinion.
Gamespot is the trope namer in this regard having given an 8.8 to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and thus caused the sun to be blot out for a week, leading to famine across the world from dying crops. The children of Africa still curse the name Gamespot whenever they hear it...
Jim Sterling basically nailed this ridiculousness in his Hate out of Ten video:
As for the history of this incredibly embarrassing, yet continuous cycle, have a look see over at TvTropes page. Our own Destuctoid has its own tab, good job y'all!
In my humble opinion, it is episodes like this that truly embarrass gaming as a medium, not big boobed witches, not the VGAs, this. Sure you get rage comments in other mediums such as music, movies, even dare I say it, politics and reality!! However, the gaming community has been trying really REALLY hard lately to be taken seriously, even too hard in this writer's, again humble, opinion. On one hand, you have gamers who want to elevate gaming above all the other mediums, claiming its uniqueness in what mostly amounts to pretentious gas, and on the other, you have dumb shit like this!
At some point, gamers need to realize that what we are fighting over is distraction from reality, when in actuality, we should be dealing with reality. We should not be looking for confirmation bias for the sake of filling our hollow ego, we should be confident in ourselves.
However, if genuinely, your biggest fear is that a low score may damage sales, and considering the scores The Last of Us is getting, I highly doubt a few 'low' scores are going to chip away at that incoming cash cow, here is an idea: When you ACTUALLY play the game, write a review, tell us how you feel, and post it on the internet, post it to your friends, go outside and tell your friends, go outside!!
So John Walker over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published a devastating critique of Marvel Heroes, the just released FTP-MMO-ARPG, and he pulls no punches cascading the game. It is a good read and you should definitely give it a look if you are either playing the game or interested in playing it, or frankly just wanting more confirmation that Free to Play is not the savior of the MMORPG.
As someone who has spent a couple of hours in Marvel Heroes, I can a test to basically all of these complaints. I did have fun with this game, no question, and there are some hilarious laughs (The Taskmaster video is gut busting), and the story seems intriguing enough, but it is hard to argue where John is coming from. There really is no challenge when there are SO MANY OTHER PLAYERS with you, that you did not ask to be with you. In fact, I remember the most fun I had was fighting The Hood, with just one other player at my side since the other players in my involuntarily created group were away somewhere. However, my biggest peeve is that I really REALLY wanted to play Spiderman, but $20 for the character was frankly asking too much, and starting off at level one!? Meaning I would have to replay the whole game again with the character I ACTUALLY wanted to play from the beginning!? Pish-posh!
To give a counter example of how to actually get your money's worth, I was playing Age of Empires Online a ways back. Starting off at level one as The Celts was not too bad, it was slow and at times tedious, but it was not bad. However, when Steam had sales for the starter packs, $14.99 if I remember correctly, I decided why not and bought one. Lo and behold, I was given a level 20 Persian civilization that I would otherwise have had to unlock by playing the game for hours and hours. Not only did that save me a great deal of time, but playing as a level 20 Persian empire was so much more fun. THAT is how you give your players a very reasonable deal.
Just taking a look at the Steam packages for Marvel Heroes gives me nausea. $249.97!? Really?! Even if you could make a justification, and believe me, if you go on the Marvel Heroes forums, you will find all kinds of excuses and runarounds, most of which amount to 'if you are too poor to pay $20 for spiderman, why are you playing then?!' or 'It is free to play, why are you complaining?', the sheer amount of money you have to put down for a game to get the 'complete' experience is WHOLLY dependent on it being online, WHICH MEANS, if it goes offline permanently due to the studio shutting down or the game not performing 'as well as expected', you are out of all the money you spent. That is what happened with Age of Empires Online. Sure it is still online, but the updates stopped, and I am sure the game will not be far behind.
This has been one of my pet peeves about spending money on MMOs, is what happens when it ends. What happens when the studio moves on, where does the game, and the money I put into it go? At least those $60 single player games I pay for are on my computer permanently, for me to log in whenever I want to, down servers be damned! I can perfectly understand a s[size=2]ubscription fee back in the hey-day of subscription based MMOs, at least I got the complete World of Warcraft. Even Eve Online does a great job of giving you free expansions and even the option of paying for and selling PLEXs for in-game cash, which can translate into A TON of time saved.
Now free to play seems to have become an excuse to piecemeal the game. I feel like I have to buy the Steam Starter packs just to feel like I am actually making headway in today's FTP games, I know Lord of the Rings Online stopped moving at a glacial pace after I put money down for one. Just look at Star Trek Online's steam packages and tell me! Tell me with a straight face that seems reasonable! Even if you are a huge Star Trek fan, or Marvel fan, you cannot justify these prices on the notion that 'if you love the game enough, you will put money down for it.' That is not what the player is suppose to say, that is how the seller manipulates a customer into saying 'shut up and give take my money.'
It is not entitlement to ask that games, let alone FTP games, offer more reasonable prices. We should not be turning the gaming community into a class-based, multi-tiered structure where only the rich get the best while everyone else gets what they can. Gaming is suppose to be fun-to-play, not pay-to-win or play-to-win or even pay-to-have fun. Free-to-play was suppose to open up the MMO-verse to more players, and though Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan Online have found a great deal of success by doing do, Marvel Heroes proves that being a superhero, is not all it is cracked up to be...and that will be $4.99 to repair that crack please?[/size]