Upon getting Tekken 6 today, my love for fighting games was rekindled, with its amazing animations, graphics and overall presentation really blowing me away. I'm more than happy with the game overall, and it has really made the series shine compared to previous instalments. However, it has more than anything made me realise how much I hate the fighting game formula, and has got me questioning why the rules of this formula are followed to this day. I'm going to try and describe what I feel the "fighting game formula" is, and the gripes I have with this somewhat dated and annoying system.
1. Easy first round, brutal second and third.
We all know the first few rounds and matches of a fighting games arcade mode are there to set you into the swing of things, and get a general overall feel for the game and its mechanics. It also gives the computer time to analyse your fighting style to make the later stages more challenging. When these later stages arrive however, a particular pattern can be recognised. The game is lenient with you in the first round allowing you to walk over the computer with a level of ease. This sets you in the mind frame that the fight will remain at this easy level for its entirety, and you will progress onto the next stage. WRONG. The computer then randomly becomes a master and serves your ass faster than you can swear in anger. Then the difficult seems to even out in the final round to the challenging difficulty the whole match should have been at. Now this annoys me, as this is universally done across all fighting games, including Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, Tekken and Soul Caliber. Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge and love the feeling of accomplishment when I finally get over a hurdle in a game, but leading the player on just to kick there ass later on is a little unfair. I'd much prefer it if the game stuck at one challenging difficult and handed my ass to me from the get go, rather than leading me on into thinking I have a chance.
2. The Large Impossible End Boss Battles
Why has this become a must in all fighting games? Every single one of them now feels that they have to have some overly powered boss character as the end battle to the arcade mode. SF4 has Seth, Tekken 6 has Azazel, Tekken 5 had Jinpachi, DOA 4 had that hovering overpowered clone of Kasumi that could teleport. Yes they may add a cinematic or climatic end to the game, but for me, they are just an annoyance to the end of what should have been a consistently challenging arcade mode. There is nothing more crushing than battling your way through the arcade mode of a thoroughly good fighting game, just to come up against an overpowered boss that can do attacks that it shouldn't be able to, and can waltz all over you. Yes I said I liked a challenge before, but something like this breaks out of what a fighting game "should be". I would much prefer a more difficult standard character to play against, rather than some mystical monster, or modified superhuman. This fact alone has killed the Arcade mode for me in Tekken 6, as it has basically 2 of these fights at the end of its arcade mode. 2!! It was bad enough with one in other games, but I guess they felt they needed to top the competition. Thatís not to say that Tekken 6 isn't a good game, but thatís another article.
3. I know what you are going to do, before you do it.
Fighting games are notorious for this, taking the users inputs and reacting to them before they can pull off the move onscreen. The computer will always have the advantage over you, as it is the device controlling what happens while the game is being played. If you do a particular move, the game will be able to recognise this, and set up the best counter attack faster than humanly possible. And it will do this randomly to make the game appear "harder". Now I've got no issues with this if the computer uses it to set up a counter strategies that still gives you a chance, but itís when current fighting games counter EVERY SINGLE MOVE you make perfectly, and comes back with the best attack possible. Take an experience I had earlier on Tekken 6. I was beating Xiayou 1 round to nothing, and halfway through the second round I have her down to half health. The computer then suddenly decides that it wants to beat on my ass, and not allow me to win, even though I currently am the better fighter. So Xiayou blocks everything I throw at her, and comes back with a massive combo followed by a comprehensive juggle to boot, flooring me in practically one motion. Unfair, to say the least, and really drains from the overall experience. All fighting games do this, and it needs to stop.
4. Large rosters of characters lead to inconsistency.
Getting a little off topic here, but itís a point I would like to raise. Fighting games do not need overly large rosters of characters. Simple as. I would much prefer a game with 8 characters that were all unique, rather than making duplicate characters with the same fighting style and move sets. Street Fighter is the worst for this, with characters such as Ken, Ryu, Sean and Dan all control in practically the same way, give or take a few moves here or there. Tekken also today has started making duplicates, if a little more subtly. For example, Anna and Nina are practically the same character, barring maybe their appearance and a couple of moves. Armour King and King are also very close in appearance and moves. Hell, at a push, Hwoarang and Baek could be seen as very similar characters. By knocking out these duplicates and refining the main characters, the game would overall feel like a more concise package. These similar characters only cause inconsistencies, with some being labelled as overpowered, and making it harder to keep all characters of a similar level or quality. Blazblue did a perfect job of making each character unique, while keeping them all very equal in quality and damage.
Again, I still love fighting games, but its this overall formula that crops up in every single title that keeps me from loving them fully. Just please, developers, take out the large boss battles, take out the unfair advantage, slim down the rosters of characters, and overall make a fair fighting game that all players can enjoy.
Is it bad when the only thing memorable about a game is the tune the enemy hum while staggering about? If so, then Velvet Assassin is a bad game.
Velvet Assassin is a stealth action game from small time developers Replay Studios. The game pits you as Violette Summer, a British Spy during the World War 2 era, performing sneaky tasks and objectives to interrupt and stop the Germans pesky Nazi ways. I went into this game with a lot of promise and expectation, with trailers and game play demos shaping the game into something that really quite tickled my stealth genre fancy. In a market where MGS4 and Splinter Cell both exist, this game had a lot to contend with, and let me just tell you, it doesn't even come close to the competition.
The game opens to the character being in a coma lying in a hospital bed, reliving the events of her life in a dream like state. The player is introduced to all the elements of the game by the lead character herself, who narrates everything that is currently going on, from what the player should look out for in the gaming environment, to carrying the thin plot. Bringing me to my first gripe with the game. The voice acting is weak at best, with Violette slurring out the mission introductions like she's half soaked and downed a couple pints of lager. Lacking believability, this really starts the missions off on the wrong foot. In addition to this, a minor point that ruins the believability of the character is the use of American pronunciation of words. Springing instantly to mind would be Violettes use of the word route, which in English is said "root" but rather is said like "r-out". Minor details, but they all add up to make the character overall weak and unbelievable in the realistic setting that this game is aiming for.
Secondly, and most importantly to some, the graphics. Graphically speaking, the game does hold some merit when compared to other titles currently available. Lighting effects and level textures really make the environment look and feel how they should, with grainy underground areas looking crisp and murky with floods of overexposed light, and the outdoor sections being openly bright and appealing to the eye, while still retaining a hint of War time flair. Violette herself on the other hand is as plastic as videogame heroines come. Comparatively, the enemies sport detailed appearances, their faces creased with wrinkles and dapper suits to boot. Violette on the other hand, rather than being dressed for success, looks like she has been ripped straight from the womenís section of a clothing catalogue, leather hot pants and all. Her hair also, in its permed state, is seriously questionable when the lead characters chosen profession is that of a spy and not a fashion model.
The game takes a very basic approach to the stealth genre, albeit a safe one, hanging around in shadows until the enemies back is turned and executing a silent kill. This is played out well, with the silent kill animations being more then satisfying every time they are performed. Enemies walk out set patterns and actions much like other stealth games, and the player must be aware of their surroundings when trying to sneak in for the kill. Broken glass fragments, electrified floors and oil patches are also dotted around to make it harder to reach the enemies but all these adages feel like a rough attempt to make things more challenging, when overall compared to other games, Velvet Assassin really is a cakewalk.
Disappointingly, the game opts to use a very basic hiding system. When the player is concealed in shadows, they are invisible to the enemy, unless they get to nose touching distance. If the player is out of the shadow, itís as if they are completely exposed, and will be spotted from miles away from every Nazi in Germany. There is no middle ground to be had; you are either in shadow, or out of it. When stealth games have led us to believe that you can be hidden anywhere, even in broad day light if done correctly, this harsh back to basics approach is hard to swallow, and in some sections can make the game overly tedious and frustrating. Checkpoints are also merciless in Velvet Assassin, forcing you to redo overly long sections of the game, and even listen to ridiculously long speaking sections over and over again. When a game such as this is based off of trial and error, this really breaks the pace of the game down to a crawl in some sections, and the game at its best points is not satisfying enough to overlook such problems.
The games main selling point that makes it stand out from the crowd is its use of morphine. When Violette jabs herself with the happy juice, the world around her freezes causing all enemies to stop dead in their tracks. With all the enemies motionless the player can now use this time to relocate to another area, or take out one particularly annoying guard. Although this feature tries to be inventive and revolutionary, it just boils down to a ďGet out of jail free cardĒ of sorts, with it feeling more like a cheat code than an actual game mechanic. Personally, from a side note, with Violetteís clothes being replaced by a silky night gown during these sequences, I feel this was just an attempt to make the overall game slightly more appealing to the male crowd and I would much rather have seen her stay fully clothed. It just makes everything feel disjointed and fake when the game strives so hard to stay as realistic and gritty as it possibly can.
Overall, Velvet Assassin tries to keep up with the heavyweights of the stealth genre, while staying reserved in the areas that matter. This makes the game overall feel like a wasted opportunity, resulting in a unsatisfying, cheap and lacklustre experience to be had throughout. Itís use of gimmicky game mechanics, plastic graphics and weak dialogue make everything feel overall bland, leaving the finished product looking like a mixed mish-mash of different ideas. If you are really into your stealth games, and can find this at a very low price, you might want to give it a shot, but I wouldnít go in expecting anything breathtaking or inspiring.
Update: Just read Jimís review of this and I would have to say that he is right on the money with what he says. I also did not complete the game, as I found it too boring and tedious to continue. Nice job reviewing Jim, great work as always
F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin Review. (360 Version Played)
As an avid fan of the original FEAR, I went into FEAR 2 with high hopes on many fronts. I wanted to be scared witless, and I wanted a solid first person shooter, and it goes without saying that Monolith have delivered on both fronts.
The original FEAR gripped me from the get go, with its large fire fights, thick atmosphere, amazing tension building and sharp scares that left me on the edge of my seat for the whole of the experience, with a deep and complex story to boot that really shined amongst all the monotonous titles that filled the market at the time. FEAR 2 does a great job of replicating its predecessor, and building upon its foundations.
The game starts with the player taking the role of Michael Becket, a Delta Force Operative deployed with his task force codenamed Dark Signal. With FEAR ending on a sharp cliff-hanger, I like many other FEAR fans were chomping at the bit to find out what happened to Point Man and the rest of the squad at the end of the original FEAR. Unfortunately, this is not addressed in the latest instalment, but rather an alternate perspective is taken. Becket is deployed 30 minutes before the finale of the original FEAR, only a short distance away from where the finale takes place. Shortly after doing the first mission, the finale of the first game plays out from Becketís perspective, and so FEAR 2ís story begins.
When first starting the game, the most apparent change is the presentation, most predominantly of which is the improved graphics and art style. Scenery is detailed and smooth, with the areas looking purposely polished yet gritty. The lighting effects are simply stunning, with deep shadows and harsh lighting effects adding to the overall experience. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game as the lighting enhances many of the moments throughout the game. A prime example of this is when the player has to investigate a derelict school. The flash light is disabled meaning that the only light source aiding your vision is quick jolts of light by a frequent power surge. This creates an effect much like the camera flash scene in Saw, and when finally something does momentarily flash up, it can be spine tingling.
Scares wise, FEAR 2 offers more overall then the previous instalment with both forced and passing scares used. The forced scares as I like to refer to them as are the ones that all players of the game will have to experience to complete the game. Some of the set pieces for these were amazing, with great build ups and unpredictable climaxes. Most notable of these was the one in the theatre featured on the demo. I was caught so off guard with this one, even though I had played it many times before, itís just brilliant. The fact you have just come out of a fire fight, your expecting more enemies and BAM, Alma all up in your grill. Other forced scares throughout the game are much much better and made me scream like a little girl, but I donít want to give anything away so you can experience them for yourself. Let me just say they are pant-wettingly awesome.
The other type of scares is where I think FEAR 2 shines compared to other horror titles. These Ďpassiveí scares are all down to the playerís actions, with them only noticeable if the player sees them themselves. Many of these scares are much the same, for example Alma stood behind you and then disappearing, or her silhouette just being in your peripheral vision, but when they happen and they catch you off guard, it is some of the best scares Iíve had with any form of entertainment medium for a long time. This however, leads me onto my other gripe with the game, which is not really a gripe but rather my obsession to see everything a games has to offer. As the game gives no real prompts as to when these scares will happen, Iím always left with the horrible feeling that Iíve missed something whenever I reach a new checkpoint or location. This is also emphasised when sharp music plays, and the HUD flickers, yet I see nothing. This degrades the experience somewhat, but is nothing game breaking in the least. For me, it has added replay value, as Iím now scouting levels for the scares to see what I have missed, however it would have been nice for them to be more highlighted so I could see where my eyes were meant to be focused.
Slow motion combat has also returned to the second instalment, and it is just as awesome and jaw dropping as it was in the first. Thereís just nothing like capping a miscellaneous soldier in the face with a shotgun, watching his head explode and his body tear and flop over, and then kung fu kicking his friend in the face, all at half speed, with every detail visible. It really adds a new element to the overall combat of the game, and toward the end of the game, it becomes a necessity when taking down waves of enemies.
Another addition to FEAR 2 is vehicles, or more precisely, Armoured suits. They are practically upright mechs with two large machine guns and rockets. I feel that this addition was not needed at all, and really can destroy the tension; however these areas are so small they can easily be overlooked on the grand scale of the overall game. The weapons have had a complete overhaul from FEAR, with all the weapons being different in some way. The arsenal is fairly uninspired when it comes to creativity though, with just generic representations of each type of weapon. This however is not a bad thing, as this is not the sort of game that needs masses of different types of the same weapon. The pulse rifle is also epic for the short time you have it, stripping all the flesh of someoneís skeleton is always a good thing.
Controls wise, the game makes no harsh changes to the current concrete FPS formula for console titles, following along the lines of Call of Duty and Halo. Everything feels responsive during game play, and everything seems to work how it should. My only gripe with the chosen system is the weapon select, which seems to cause more problems, rather then add to the seamless new layout. The player can now carry up to 4 primary weapons at one time, which is a nice element to vary gunplay and give the player more choice. However, it is how you navigate these weapons where I have the issue. Holding the Left Bumper brings up the weapons and the right stick highlights and selects the wanted weapon from the overall arsenal. This works when the player is stationary and not in battle, however when under fire, this can make things very haphazard.
Story is where I was most pleased with FEAR 2, as it took a completely different direction to what was expected, and pulled it off with style and grace. The story plays out from level to level, and never feels like it is dragging to purposely make the game feel longer or prolong plot points. It answers some questions left from the original, and poses some new ones. Its use of intel also to drop hints as to where the story is going is also well done, with it giving the player an idea, but not fully telling them what is about to go down. Monolith also took a leaf out of Valves book with its environmental storytelling, with notes on walls and other visual hints revealing other plot points. This works perfectly with FEAR 2ís overall presentation, and I can only hope that Monolith make a habit of this in future projects. The ending is also quite a shock for a fan of the series, totally unexpected for me. Some will find it rather abrupt, which I did, but this should not take away from its overall impact for most.
Overall, FEAR 2 is a well constructed, polished and scary package that really delievers on all fronts. Itís use of storytelling, scares and shooting elements all melt together to make an experience which really is breathtaking making it an early competitor in my eyes for game of 2009. If you can look passed some of its technical flaws, FEAR really should be in any horror/FPS fans collection.
Recently, I was browsing the internet, and came across a deal like no other. I found Saints Row 2 for the PS3 for ¬£15.97 at Tesco, brand new, delivered on release day. Thats just under ¬£16 for a PS3 game that is yet to be released. BARGAIN. Now I was wondering, what has your guys best gaming purchase been? Price or rarity.
Looking back, I havent had that many bargains when it comes to games so not much to say really.
And rather than make this one of those annoying two line blogs, I will now show you my set up, in which I play the vidya amoungst other things.
Gaming Posters Above My Bed, They Need To Be Changed
Where I Sit
What I See
My actual games are stored in the cupboard behind where I sit, and due to light, I couldnt get a good shot.