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Seventh Shin's blog

11:53 PM on 12.25.2010

Art Direction Left for Dead in Left 4 Dead 2?

Just checked up on my Destructoid blog from about two years back, although slightly perplexed by my ďwonderfulĒ writing skills, (perhaps Iíll judge this article in a few years) I found it a bit funny my last article was about Left 4 Dead. Regardless, Iíve been starting a bit of a debate with my friend on the subject of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, and I figured Iíd just get some ideas down on paper, and what better place to share them then Destructoid, hence the checking up on old accounts.

If youíve managed your way through my Kane & Lynch review, you would know I highly value art direction in games. I certainly wouldnít deny the belief that graphics should take a back seat to gameplay, but I still enjoy polygons as much as the next person; nevertheless I will openly judge a games visual merits based solely on art direction. For example Crysis looks amazing now, I wouldnít deny that, but several years from now there will be a game with twice the polygons, twice the action on screen, and twice the good looks, simply put; Crysis will eventually look dated (I spent a fair amount of time with Crysis on a good rig, but Iím not judging the art direction out right, in fact I hear the later levels and creatures look quite inspired). Now take a game such as Machinarium, looks beautiful now, and ten years from now, it will still look so; technology canít improve style. Yes I am, perhaps unfairly, comparing a hand drawn game with a rendered one, but Iím just getting a point across.

Machinarium shows you don't need high end graphics to look amazing, and that the best looking game isn't always the one with the most polygons.

Now on to the subject of Left 4 Dead, a game that had itís fair share of controversies with the announcement and launch of the second less then a year following the first. Iíll reserve judgment on that, but state that the differences between the two were minor, more guns added, the addition of melee combat, some new enemies, and a new campaign, or campaigns as the game likes to call it. On the surface of game were four new survivors and a new setting. The new weapons added a hint of variety, which never hurts, though the differences are negligible, as youíd still be picking an automatic weapon, shotgun or sniper, or perhaps a grenade launcher this time around. The new infected improved on the gameplay, preventing the closest camping of the first (which if you asked nicely, could get your teammates to avoid for the sake of fun) and for the most part promoting even more teamwork. Youíd be hard pressed to say these additions were not welcome, and improvements in some sense of the word.

The use of car lights, grain, and a more subtle and cooler (temperature wise) color pallet give Left 4 Dead a feeling of desperation.

Left 4 Dead 2 would clearly be the better game if more content equaled a better game, and it does right? For some, that may be the case, but for myself, Iím perhaps letting graphics move up and sit in the middle seat in the front of my video game car. You know that one seat up between the passenger and driver with the shifter dangerously close to your crotch? Yeah, thatís were Art Direction is sitting right now. With gameplay driving, and immersion sitting in the passenger seat.

Goofier characters, and and some daytime levels give Left 4 Dead 2 a new, although less serious, look.

Terrible analogies aside, Left 4 Dead really had itís ďownĒ atmosphere, it was a dark grainy 28 Days Later esque zombie survival game, yes the characters where horribly clichťd, but they had the decency to take themselves seriously. Now Left 4 Dead 2's cast of characters of whom youíd be more likely to see in your local grocery store also took themselves seriously to an extent, but with a pinch more humor in their dialog. Not that Francis, of Left 4 Dead, hating everything wasnít a bit of comic relief, but the cast in Left 4 Dead 2 is certainly more on the goofy side. Not to mention a few other aspects of the game, such weapons like the frying pan, and missions where you get bottles of soda for other characters, while humorous, donít exactly fit with the desperation I would associate with a zombie apocalypse. Secondly Left 4 Dead 2 has this whole bright sunny day, funky music, southern theme going on. Not that all horror games need to be at night (and Left 4 Dead 2 still offers some night levels), but it certainly killed the feeling of desperation from the first game. Not to say developers shouldnít experiment with this sort of thing (I really think they should), but changing the atmosphere so drastically is really changing a huge aspect of the first game. Valve took the style in another direction with Left 4 Dead 2, and if youíd allow me to be so shallow for a moment, it ruined the game for me. I want to like Left 4 Dead 2, I really do, it truly did improve on the first, but for me it changed one of the defining aspects of the first game, and I just canít seem to get past it.   read

3:54 PM on 01.24.2009

Left 4 Dead: The only game to do IT right.

If by ďitĒ I meant co-op, there would be no point in your reading this as you would already know, and if you didnít know that, there would again be no point in you reading this, as you would be in the car on your way to pick up a copy.

However, by ďitĒ I mean difficulty, so to spell it out for you, Left 4 dead is the only game to ever do the difficulty right.

Whenever I boot up a game and it asks me to select the difficulty, I crank it, almost without question, to the hardest. I do this not for achievements, but because one, I like a challenge, and two, I tend to get much more time out of the game, even if it is by doing the same section over and over again. This of course forces me to often master the game, and often use my brain to find the best way to go about doing things. By doing so, I often find I have the most fun on the hardest difficulty. COD2 and 4 for example, ten or so hour games I believe, but I likely spent twice that, I think I got pretty good at the game, and working though some of the harder parts was pretty darn fun. Some parts did get a bit annoying, like of course the Ferris wheel, but I tell you getting into that chopper was so damn satisfying. The downside of this though is that playing game like COD on veteran sure as hell sucks the life out of you, and youíll never want to do it again.

Then you get games like COD5, which just suck on the hardest difficulty (or any difficulty for that case), you get grenades spawning up your ass and you never have any fun. It was apparent that the game would suck on Veteran about 2 levels in, but for me it became a matter of pride, I was going to make that game my bitch no matter how long it took. I can say COD5 is now my bitch, but I can also say I've never given a game away so fast. The problem is, most games resort to becoming stupid cheap to make the game appear hard, and they resort to tactics such as the aforementioned grenade-in-ass spawning, or AI gets perfect aim with perfectly accurate one hit kill guns, and a health bars that triples, and bullets that turn to peas when you pick them up, Halo 2 being another example.

This is of course where Left 4 Dead comes in. My goodness Iíve never had more fun on the hardest difficulty. It has its own tactic of becoming hard, it doesnít just send one hit kill zombies at you or make use of other cheap tactics, it pushes your back up against the wall and keeps you there. One wrong move and youíll fall, but start to move forwards and you will quickly be slammed back against that wall. At one point I was doing so well with some friends, we were half way through the level, tank already defeated, I even pulled up the menu to check the difficulty make sure it was still maxed, and it was. I turn the corner and I see nothing other then tank number two, that left us in a very bad way, and sadly we didnít make it. I trust I donít need to say what that kind of suspense that adds to a game.

I donít know my playtime, but I am 7,000 kills into the game, and Iíve still yet to beat the first campaign. Donít say I suck just yet, here are some excuses: One, Iím on xbox so you know what kind of teammates I get, being the case, I only ever play with one other friend, leaving us with two AI. Two, Iíve been playing locally with other friends, so Iíve gone from the first to last level several times, and its fun enough for me to do so. No equation on this, but 7,000 kills, Iím betting Iíve played for at least seven hours, and Iím still not even a fourth of the way through, that is damn impressive, not to mention Iím still having fun with the same four levels.

I donít need to praise the game on all other areas because Iíve sure itís already been done, but Iím so impressed with what the AI Director does for the game, not to say its something that can work with other games, but seeing a new approach to difficulty is very welcome, and I would love to see this at least tried in other games. Of all the bars raised by Left 4 Dead, how to make a game hard is one of them, and I just hope other developers try to reach that bar, weíd all benefit.   read

10:01 PM on 01.23.2009

Iím Sick of Saving the World

So instead of making a list of my problems with modern games, or more specially shooters, Iíll just go on about one of my major gripes, the story. Iím not going to say the story is the most important part of a game, but a good one never hurts, and sometimes, for me at least, it can be a major selling point. Nevermind that video game stories are generally bad all around, its just everyone seems to has this idea that more epic equals more better, and thatís about as well written as most videogame stories. Same goes for movies, think about it, 28 Days Later was so much better then 28 Weeks Later, and thatís not exactly to say 28 Weeks Later was horrible, its just that they tried to make it about the whole damn world, where as 28 Weeks Later was about people, simple, focused and deep, nevermind that it is one of the best "zombie" movies ever.

I just saw a trailer for a shooter called (well I just went to check, GT just removed it for some reason) anyway, something with an 8 in it. Well guess what it was? A sci-fi shooter in all likely hood about the war of the worlds, and Iím sure you play as humanities last hope, original, right? Speaking of that, Iíd love to at least see a sci-fi shooter with a story on a much smaller scale.

Max Payne and Max Payne II for example, it was about figuring out who was responsible and taking revenge for the murder of your family. Not to sum to the story up that easily, but it was very small scale and very deep [I do mean in comparison to other games], and dark which is always bonus for me.

Now Iím not exactly saying if the whole world is involved itís instantly too epic and over used. Freedom Fighters for example, yes it was about the Soviets invading the USA, but you werenít trying to save the world, you were a small group of people trying to do what they could, with no real hope of actually accomplishing your goal. It was not about saving the world; it was about saving what you could.

Iím not saying these games donít exist, I know a few, and Iím sure there are some I donít know of, but the over whelming majority of games these days are about saving the world, and Iím sick of it.   read

1:00 PM on 01.09.2009

Kayne & Lynch: Dead Men Review

Yes, Iím a bit late to this, I got this game nearly when it came out, but Iím giving it a second look.

I was looking forward to this before it came out, (I loved both Hitman and Freedom Fighters) that is, until it got insulted by all the reviews out there. However, once I got my hands on the demo, it didnít seem all that bad to me. One of the selling points, for me at least, was the story, and I will say it was going pretty well, there was even a pretty emotional cut scene, well, for a game anyways. Sadly after that, I think the writers stopped caring, and both the endings felt so uninspired it was almost as sad as the aforementioned cut scene.

The graphics are pretty varied in this game, some of the character models look pretty darn good, and then some stuff like the explosions almost look like they are from the N64 days. None of that matters though because this is one area the game really shine, and that area is art direction. Just look at the box art and you can tell the artist have some good ideas. Itís the little details that really make it, like the guys having magazines duct taped to their clothes, or Kaneís bald spot, and the window cleaner suites you have for one of the missions just look damn cool. Same for the levels, there is one mission at a nightclub during a rave, and its one of the cooler missions Iíve played in a game. If youíve even seen the movie Heat (if not, go see it) and said I want to play that, in terms of looks, this game is what your looking for.

Unfortunately, there are some problems with the gameplay, as it all feels rather clunky. However this clukieness does slow down the gameplay, so its not too fast, your wont be running around getting head shots, which I think works well for the game. Still, it just doesnít feel all that comfortable.

Iím sure its no surprise by now that half way through the game, the setting suddenly switches from the city to Cuba or something. At that point the game really loses its charm, and leaves you with clunky gameplay and not so interesting art direction. You can play the entire game with one screen co-op which was another selling point, and while your still in the city, its certainly bearable to play, nothing new for co-op though, but it works just fine, even though it still has all the games other problems.

There is multiplayer for online, and its actually a really cool idea. You start as a team doing missions like robbing banks or jewelry stores, but at ay point you can betray your team and take their money, and they of course can kill you. I dint play enough to find out what the point of money was, just for sake of winning Iíd assume, if you could buy guns or something itíd be cool, but I cant confirm if you can or can not do that. Of course there is a problem with this, did you catch what it is? There is somewhat of an honor system to work together, and asking xbox live users to follow that is a big ask. Most every match Iíd be shot in the back by a teammate as soon as the game started. The few times it worked, it was pretty fun, and can be truly intense deciding when you want to betray your team, or worrying about being betrayed your self. The gameplay and controls are still the same, the gun fights with other players arenít all that great, but gun fights usually amount to being shot in the back, so its not a major problem. Iíd imagine playing with some friends would be quite fun.

There is, in addition to the art direction, some brilliance in the game, the cover system though a bit of a problem child, is great when it works. You basically just put your self behind cover and the game will adjust your character for you. For example if you crouch behind a table and your head is still stick up, your character will lower his head out of harms way. Then when you fire, your character will automatically blind fire, unless of course you manually aim. And, unlike every other game out there where you can revive teammates, there is a cool limit on that. You can easily help up down teammates with some drugs, but do it too much, and they they will over dose and die.

Despite what it has going for it, I still canít exactly tell you to go pick it up, as the gameplay will likely be a problem for most people. Check out the demo though, if you like it, Iím sure you could have some fun with it, but by now if you might be better off with GTAIV if you want a game like it, in terms of a shooter of course, and I mean this in terms of a setting. However, I for one will be looking forward to a sequel if it is ever released. If the developers fix the gameplay and continue with their art direction and other ideas, Kane & Lynch 2 could be a good game, or they could mix it up and continue under a new name, which would be just fine, starting a story from scratch might just be easier.   read

8:47 PM on 01.08.2009

Call of Duty: World at War Review

I've been a huge fan of the Call Of Duty games since I played that COD2 demo on the 360 way back when. Sorry, I should restate, I've been a huge fan of the COD games made by Infinity Ward. COD 2, despite the fact that the Germans where having tea parties in every house you were assaulting, was an enjoyable experience, even on veteran. COD 3 I literally played for five minutes, it was that bad. COD4 was of course fun, minus the stand off at the end of the sniper mission while playing on veteran. The whole game had the really great immersive cinematic experience just like COD2, even in multiplayer, which was brilliant. The camera movements in first person felt very fluid and natural, and the constant switch between attacking and defending was great pacing. Even though the modernness of Modern Warfare was a nice change of pace, I missed the feel of killing someone with a bolt-action rifle. It was good to know the next COD, now know as World at War, would be back in the world war two timeline, that was until I found out it was made by Treyarch, the game then fell off my radar.

Not to get any more back-story, I had the chance to play some World at War at a friendís house in co-op. Which brings me to my first complaint, what the hell was who smoking when they decided to do that to split screen? For those who donít know, instead of doing normal one screen on top of the other, the screen on the top is off centered, and you get a stupid picture behind the two.

Anyway, now on to the game. The controls and movement feel right, like COD4, not that crap from COD3, it appeared they just took the engine from Infinity Ward. Iíll say now from further playing, I guess thatís exactly what they did. So it handles fine, but there is plenty more for Treyarch to screw up.

As for single player, keep in mind I played on veteran, was a pain in the ass. Yeah, COD games on veteran are usually pretty hard, but still enjoyable, WAW on the other hand is just hard and very stressful. I think cheap is a better word then hard for this game, or I suppose just saying grenades works well enough. After beating the game, Iím fairly certain grenades just spawn underneath you, Iíd have grenades underneath me even when standing behind a wall. Donít think your safe even in places where itíd be physically possible for grenades to reach you. Seeing five grenade indicators on the screen at once was not an uncommon thing. Once I recall getting four grenade indicators instantaneously, one in front of me, one each side, and one behind me, leaving me nothing to do but put the controller down at wait for a reload. Next, your teammates donít do anything, the only time Iíve ever saw my teammate shoot someone was when I was dead. So if you come up to a group of fifteen guys, you have to kill fifteen guys, hell, I donít even know why your teammaes are there, its just you doing everything. And of course, the enemy only shoots you, Iíd see my teammates at cover, and run over to them only to be killed guy an enemy sitting right next to them. Or instead of shooting my teammate at the front lines who is firing his gun hitting nothing, theyíd turn at shoot at me hiding in a bush. Lets not forget when they charge, they would run past five of my guys, and attack me, and only then after stabbing me, would me teammates shoot them.

Further more, and this may seem minor, but I think itís very important for immersion; the camera movements for the first person cinematics were so stiff and unnatural. The pacing was just bad, none of that attack and defend thing, just constantly attacking. Plus a few missions poorly copied from COD4 such as the sniper one, and one with you in a gun ship. Canít really think of anything redeeming about the campaign, when I got to the end and unlocked the zombie thing I didnít even bother with it, I was so fed up with the game, I havenít played it since, glad I borrowed it.

As for multiplayer, its pretty much the same thing as COD4, but with WWII skins and guns, which is what I was excited about. But you still have these weird gun attachments, like some fake red dot sight; totally killing everything I was excited about. Same perks, same challenges for leveling up, nothing new at all. Well there is tanks and dogs, but nothing to buy a whole new game about. Iíd have liked a classic mode, were you could only use WWII weapons with none of those attachments.

Another thing, and this pissed me off more then anything, a massive problem with COD4, if you had 8 friends, two Xboxes and two TV, you could only do a one versus one LAN. So no split screen LAN, which is complete bull, and guess what Treyarch copied and pasted that as well. Not that it would be much fun anyways, you only get to pick from a few horrible classes, you canít pick your gun or any perks when playing with friends, something I questioned even in COD4. Though I guess most games are doing this, sure we have Internet gaming on the consoles but that doesnít mean we canít have LAN parties anymore. Gaming has always been about having fun with friends, but now I guess the trend in gaming, and everything else, is to cut back on social interaction, or at least face-to-face interaction.

Now let me quickly address the one kind of cool thing Treyarch did. They added a bit of gore, which actually looks pretty good, and fits well with graphicness of war. And Iíll say they fire effects in the game looked fairly decent.

In the end, if you want to get pissed off and break something, or you want to play COD4 on crappier maps, or you just want to waste money, go ahead and get Call of Duty: World at War.   read

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