Another week, another batch of games. Let's get down to business.
For the most part, I've been playing the same games as last week.
continues its streak of brilliance without breaking a sweat. I spend my days at work longing to return to Liberty City. Since I covered the game mechanics last week, I'd like to discuss some of the finer points that make the game what it is.
The music has impressed me like nothing has since Tony Hawk 2 (Powerman 5000 ftw). I know the boys at Rockstar North have always included an eclectic mix of tunes in the series, but there's something special about this one, something I can't quite put my finger on. I think it just fits the personality of the city. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my 2 favourite stations, Liberty Rock Radio and Classics, feature Iggy Pop and DJ Premier at the respective helms. Oh, and The Seeker rocks hard tasty abs.
I'm also very happy with the pacing of the game. The story is considerably lower key than anything in the series' history; a byproduct of its more refined writing. It's refreshing that Niko isn't
the head of some crime syndicate at this point. He's still just trying to get by, taking any job he can. I mean, it kind of broke the fiction when CJ was robbing casinos, dealing with government agents and flying jet packs, only to return to Los Santos to confront comparatively petty problems at the end.
With all that said, I am starting to see a few cracks in the game. As odd as this may sound, especially for a series championed for its variety of activities, I'm getting a bit bored of the missions. No matter what I'm asked to do, it typically ends with a shootout followed by a police chase. Lose your wanted level, drive to the hideout, mission accomplished. Don't
get me wrong, they're still fun to play, but I wish something would come along and shake up the monotony.
I put a little more time into Mario Kart Wii
this past week, coming away with less favorable impressions than last week.
I'd just like to say first that the track design is great. Without question some of the best of any Mario Kart. Coconut Mall is not only the fun to play, but fun to look at. Its integration of Miis into the billboards is all sorts of awesome. Admiral "Soon-To-Reside-On-SLiFE's-Ass" Ackbar was showing off some of the latest fall fashions, while My Buddy Greg shilled for what appeared to be coffee (not my fault, its only 480p).
I dislike the wheel now. The novelty has worn off, and I see it for its gimmicky nature. It's not necessarily the fault of the design. It's more of a slight against Wii controls in general. They are incapable of detecting precise motions. How else could I explain a silver on a 50CC cup? And it's not just Mario Kart. Twilight Princess suffered the same problem. Mario Galaxy was acceptable, but only because the spinning attack was easily engaged and the cursor was almost unnecessary. I intend to try controlling the game with both a Gamecube controller and a Wiimote/nunchuk combo in the next week. Hopefully one of these will render the game playable.
The one new game I tried this week was Boom Blox
for the Wii. I was so apathetic to this game for months. Only in the past few weeks, after hearing Shane Bettenhausen (of EGM and 1up) raving about how much fun it was, did I develop an interest.
Shane was right.
This game had me hooked in minutes. The play mechanics are simple, intuitive and well implemented within the puzzles. And besides, who doesn't like knocking shit over?
The challenges presented in the game run the gamut of puzzle design: disassembling towers, Jenga-style, knocking them down by throwing as few possible balls as possible, creating paths to allow characters to reach a goal. The bevy of blocks, characters, tools and rule sets make for a ridiculous amount of game play possibilities. A few of them fall flat, but it doesn't detract from the experience too much.
Boom Blox features, hands-down, the best implementation of Wii controls to date. Aiming, motion sensing, the accelerometer: all are used, all are great. It's curious why it took a 3rd party developer to realize them as well as they are. Nintendo should have had a half-dozen such titles by now.
If I had to fault Boom Blox for one thing, it's the physics. Don't get me wrong, the physics model is an incredibly well written piece of simulation software. It's just that in the context of a puzzle game, it can make for a frustrating time. Even after you have figured a level out, where to throw the ball, which piece to remove, the physics can still come out and bite you in the ass. One puzzle comes to mind (knock the gems down in as few throws possible), where one particular gem would always land errantly on another block, requiring a second throw to complete. I wanted gold on that level, and so I spent the better part of an hour retrying. It was frustrating to the point that my eventual victory felt hollow.
The game features an in-depth editing tool. In addition to creating your own levels from scratch, you also have the ability to edit any pre-existing one (an option they present you at the end of every level). While my time with this mode was very limited, I believe it to be the most open-ended editing software available on any home console (at least until LittleBigPlanet). It's just a shame you're limited to exchanging your creations with friends; a community feature would extend the life of this game almost infinitely. We can only hope a 3rd party will step in to fill the void (a la IGN's SSB World
Overall, this is an easy recommendation to any Wii owner.
Finally, I've been putting more time into Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
I'd like to retract my statements from last week regarding the translation. While it took some time to become accustomed to the new dialog, it is far better than the previous release of the game. The style fits with the setting, and the story could be described, for the first time ever, as compelling. By comparison, the previous game was just embarrassing.
I tried out a trio of demos this week on PS3, with mixed impressions.
First up is GRiD
, the follow up to last years DiRT (itself the successor to the Colin McRae rally series). Not being a huge racing fan, I booted up with no expectations. egardless, I was very impressed. You can really tell they put the time in to polish this game. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the better looking racers out there. The damage model is incredible, and there are assistance options for novice racers like myself.
Above all, you get to pick from a list of names at the beginning of the game. You will be addressed on menus and by your pit crew as such for the rest of the game. How awesome is it to have someone tell you personally how bad you're doing?
I played the demo for the highly anticipated, oft delayed FPS, Haze
. I know of their legacy as ex-Rare staffers who made Goldeneye before separating to create the Timesplitters series. They are renowned for their contributions to the genre. That doesn't mean that I agree with it though. Sure, they created what is considered to be the granddaddy of console first-person shooters, but every game they've released since still controls like its goddamn 1997. Did they never play Halo? There should be courses, taught by Bungie-certified rofessors, on how to program FPS controls. I would say it's not rocket science, but it must be approaching it since so many developers mess it up.
I was really disappointed in Haze. The weapons were boring and uninspired, enemies acted predictably and were not fun to fight, I wanted to shoot my squad mates every time they opened their mouths (I know you switch sides later in the game, but it was still terrible). The Nectar aspect, where you juice yourself with a performance enhancing substance, was interesting, but mainly only because you can overdose on it.
When is this game coming to retail? Doesn't matter.
Last, and most definitely least, comes The Bourne Conspiracy
. This game is straight up terrible. It's the worst looking Unreal Engine 3 games I've ever seen, and that includes XBLA games. As part of a larger game, the 3 game play aspects (shooting, hand-to-hand combat, driving) would be passable. But that's it. That's all you do, and all 3 are just awful. If this were a movie, I'd get a bunch of friends together, drink some beer and have a great time laughing at how bad it is. If I were the developer of The Bourne Conspiracy, I'd be ashamed of myself.
Microsoft held their Xbox 360 Spring Showcase earlier this week, and while there were no earth-shattering announcements, everything they showed off is high on my list of anticipated games.
However, the announcement of Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise did get me excited. I was late to the party for the original, but it was one of the best games I played in all of 2007. Its laid-back nature, classic Rare charm and "gotta catch 'em all" design made for one hell of an addicting experience
. The sequel doesn't look like it's going to rock the boat too much, but I'll still be picking it up Day One when it drops in September.
The 1st game play footage of Gears of War 2 was shown on Friday, and hot damn, it looks good. The tech demo from GDC did little to prepare me for the visual onslaught.
The action has been ramped up significantly from the original, with promises of even more intense fire fights later in the game. I just hope they put as much effort into reworking the multiplayer, which was, and let's be real here, sorta broken. And if their solution to the chainsaw conundrum is simply a button-mashing contest, I'll be pissed.
The guy behind Fanboys
took a month-long sabbatical earlier in the year, but everything he's done since has assaulted my funny bone with reckless abandon. Since this weeks comic is a little large, I must resort to posting the link.
Roleplay About Nothing
Thanks for reading. I'll be back next week. read