AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 32
It is a question I ask myself quite a lot. Whether it be slogging away at two jobs I donít even like, or hanging out with friends I donít find interesting or even very agreeable in any respect, or perhaps whilst browsing some website in the early hours of the next day, reading some trivial article about something I care little about.
More recently, this question has been focused on video games, namely two I have decided to cross off my backlog list at a time which some may consider premature.
ďWhy am I still trying to win this race in Split/Second when clearly, the AI is totally misbalanced?Ē
ďWhy am I still trying to unlock Kilik in Soulcalibur V after around fifty attempts and two hours of lost time which I cannot chalk up to being fun?Ē
ďWhy am I bothering with this backlog?Ē
Most of the time, it is difficult to actually find a good answer. To the three questions above, I could merely reply that it is plain old stubbornness; refusing to be defeated by an AI which has seemingly been designed for the primary purpose of beating me.
is yet another racing game (following Gran Turismo 5 and Shift II: Unleashed) which I am crossing off my list despite not really having completed it. For those unacquainted with the swansong of Black Rock Studios, itís pretty much Mario Kart, but more grounded in reality. Instead of Go-Karts, you have sports cars, trucks, SUVís and the like. Instead of blue, red and green shells, banana skins and mushrooms, you have traps set all along the course, such as swinging cranes, falling buildings, crashing aircraft, and attacking helicopters. And instead of the bright and colourful Bowserís Castle and Luigi Circuit, you have the not so bright but still quite colourful backdrop of a wrecked city, with courses bounding through canals, shipping yards, airplane graveyards and nuclear powerstations. The game is just a huge freaking spectacle, a lot of fun to watch.
But unless you can by some miracle find a lobby of opponents online or can tolerate splitscreen racing, thatís all it has. The AI is just far too messed up. It slaughters you. You can be leading for a near full lap, driving like a pro, and suddenly, three AI opponents will all cruise past you at light speed, robbing you off necessary points to proceed. I retried a lot of races trying to bump up my scores, but to no avail. I was defeated no matter how well I did. Eventually, I became tired of this, and stopped. This is one of the worst games for AI opponents Iíve ever seen in the driving/racing genre. AT least with real human opponents, you can probably expect to be beaten fair and square, but there is no fun to be had in the single-player campaign. If anyone else has had more luck, please tell me which rainbow you found a four-leaf clover stapled to a rabbits foot under.
But this rather crippling flaw aside, Split/Second can still be a lot of fun through couch multiplayer and online (if you can convince some buddies to buy the game as well, because the online community is dead). Itís a very good idea, and a darn spectacle to boot, but the crippling AI difficulty means you will not enjoy this alone. I give it a 6
Next up, another sort of DNF, Soulcalibur V
. The original Soulcalibur on the Dreamcast stands as my all-time favourite fighting game. Since then, however, without exception, it has seemed that the series has gone majorly downhill. Soulcalibur 2 was still very good, but failed to really innovate beyond its predecessor beyond a few new fighters and some prettier looks. Then it got bad, to the point we got the broken inclusion of Yoda in Soulcalibur IV. And yet, once again, I found myself handing over a few notes for the latest from Project Soul, hoping the trend may finally buck.
Good news! It has! This game is such an improvement over III and IV, and I can honestly say Iíve spent about twenty hours in multiplayer, be it online or against my father (who originally bought me the Dreamcast just so he could buy Soulcalibur). The things which made the series so appealing back then still stand; diverse characters with a wide array of moves and styles to learn and perfect over long periods, and the feeling that not one experienced, non-button-mashing player plays the same as another. Arenas and beautiful andÖ haa zaaa! Multi-tiered! A feature Iíve quite enjoyed in the Dead or Alive series, which to my mind, is a feature that makes a lot more sense than a square arena in the middle of nowhere which you can fall off and die. Well, actually, most of the levels are still death squares, but the one or two exceptions spice things up a bit.
Character creations a bit crap, but Iíve seen videos where people have clearly had fun making Scorpion, Batman and Sub-Zero (someone should tell these guys about MK Vs DCU, theyíll shit a house!)
But again, the game is at times crippled by AI. There is a constant theme as you play through the rather agreeable story mode and arcade modes where the AI can block the way only a computer which is reading your inputted commands could. Sure, you can throw them to combat this, but youíll probably already be ten feet in the air counting your shiny new sword wounds before you get the opportunity. Itís moments like this that made me retire the game back to the shelf until my father wants to resolve some trivial issue with simulated mortal combat, or have the nagging desire to smash a stranger in the face with a six foot sword. Soulcalibur V gets an 8
Sorry Elsa, itís not old Ezio.
And now (sigh), Homefront
. Fucking. Homefront. I donít know why I begrudge this game the two and a half hours it took me to complete its mediocre campaign. Oh God. Oh God Iím having flashbacks, ARGGGGGGGHHHHHH MY HEART!
In all seriousness, donít buy it. It was launched with the promise of a Call of Duty-esque game with a good story. That is bullshit. Itís a mess of dislikeable characters, who fall squarely into the army game stereotypes, mucky graphics which despite the engines promise is not taken advantage of, instead offering up lazy and uninspiring visuals. A finale on the Golden Gate Bridge? Should be pretty epic right? No. It felt like one of the more boring filler sections of a Call of Duty or even Medal of Honor. And it was the FINALE!!! The last point of contact the player will have with the story, and we got pretty much fuck aaaaall!
Also, I died. A lot. On the easiest difficulty setting. Enemies often spawn behind you, or hide or get stuck on scenery, and yet shoot you through it, invulnerable to your attack. I swear to God, there was one point where an RPG soldier just appeared and killed me seven times in a row, with me being able to do very little about it. It was dumb luck that I managed to snipe him before he killed me an eight timeÖ right before his friends all popped in (literally) and tore me to pieces.
I really, really didnít enjoy it. The best thing about it was it wasnít any longer. The helicopter bit was okay, but most of the time was spent waiting for your squad-mates to come unstuck from scenery, slowly walk up to you, and open a door for you.
And concerning your squad-mates, just fuck this guy. Worst character in any shooter of recent years. Homefront gets a 3
, the only other game to receive a score as low as this being the dreadful Tom Clancyís HAWX. I donít want to talk about it anymore.
So why not talk about SSX
? Hooray, a score based extreme sports game for the modern consoles which isnít a beaten to death Tony Hawkís game. To summarize, I really did enjoy it. The genre has been MIA for quite a while, and itís satisfying to get good at. The levels are pretty, the visuals and music are spot on, as youíd hope for an SSX game, and the control system, possibly the most important feature of games of this genre, just works. Why fix what ainít broke with a crappy peripheral, right Tony Hawk?
SSX: Not compatible with crappy skateboard controllers which break your arms.
I did enjoy the more difficult sections later on. Funnily enough, one of the most fun levels is one where you canít see shit. Also, along with the World Tour mode, there is a well implemented Arcade mode where you can compete with friends based on score or time. Little features like that just make it feel like a well-rounded package with plenty to do, and a constant challenge to not let Andy, the little shit at work, get all smug because heís doing better than you in Antarctica. I give SSX a 7
, but only because I donít quite get on with snowboarding games as well as I do skateboarding games. If you mess up on SSX, you canít just restart your line without doing a ďSands of TimeĒ and losing a ton of points. And on your journey to get good, you will mess up a lot. If youíre a perfectionist, prepare to restart the level a heck of a lot.
And finally, a game Iíve been kind of waiting for since 2004. A game I simply had to add to my backlog despite the hordes of other titles screaming from the shelves. Max Payne 3
, the third entry in what may be my favourite series of games. Ever. And no, I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Now we all knew all along this was not going to be an HD carbon clone of the first two entries. Graphic novel cutscenes are gone. Freaky nightmare sections are gone. New York, for the most part, is gone, only returning to tie the new setting of Sao Paulo to Maxís origins. And yet, despite the visuals and the location being thousands of miles away from what it once was, the game retains what made Max Payne so good; a dark, twisted tale of murder and revenge, following a man with only his life to lose, and he isnít exactly fussed about that.
And yet, there was something amiss. Why is Max so down on himself? Isnít he aware of what heís capable of? Iím pretty sure that heís killed more people than polio, and yet he still feels useless. He has the power to slow down time and end the lives of seven goons whilst crashing through a club window, and yet will not put the bottle down and consider what heís capable of. The only reason heís worthless is because heís constantly wasted, and yet he drinks because he feels like heís worthless. I donít know whether this is just a plot hole or an over sight, or is an accurate portrayal of the horrific circle of self- abuse that drinking and drug abuse lead to, but either way, it was a little bit annoying.
But then maybe that speaks volumes for the character that Remedy created back then, and that Rockstar have maintained. I cared more that Max eventually drops the bottle and pull his life together than anything else. This is a man who the player genuinely sympathizes with, as he has suffered one of the worst personal setbacks a person can suffer; the loss of a family.
And whilst Max is definitely centre stage, the supporting actors in this piece really do their work. From his sidekick to his target, from his boss to the bosses wife Max seeks to save. The world of Max Payne 3 is full of three dimensional characters, and it is a world that despite the evil that dwells there, the player will certainly revisit. Heck, I might revisit it in a minute, if not just for the awesome modernization of bullet time, the horrific level of detail within a gun fight, and the pure Matrix-esque level of spectacle. But with the gore, its not there for fun. The game is actually quite shocking. Bullet holes in people really do look like bullet holes in people, as jets of blood erupt from the forehead of your latest victim. And it never really is enjoyable. Each time the camera zoomed in on a headshot, it was actually a little sickening. But thatís what I love about this game, something so horrific enhances the experience, because the game isnít setting out to be similar to some massive Hollywood blockbuster where people get shot in the stomach, fall to the floor and swear bloody revenge on the protagonist before falling over the side of a building. This is a game which shows a man on the edge, plowing through an army of smugglers and mercenaries, grasping on to what small glimmer of purpose he can feel for himself, be it revenge, or saving the girl. And if you have to murder people along the way, the game is going to make sure you know about it.
Also, multiplayer. Max Payne 3 has it. Itís alright.
I give Max Payne 3 a 9
, an absolute triumph of a sequel, despite my dread that I felt around 2010 when the original ďshaved head MaxĒ started doing the rounds on the internet. The only let down really was the ending, which was somewhat disappointing after the pure madness of the rest of the game.
So back to my original question. Why am I here, surrounded by games, slowly making my way through them in order to justify their purchase to myself and to you?
Because of Final Fantasy XIII. A game I got stuck on in the summer of 2010. A game that has hung over my head like the sword of Damocles, forever tainting my purchases with a small whisper in my ear. ďWhy are you buying that? You havenít finished me yet! You still havenít killed the Proudclad! You worthless human being!Ē
But last night, after putting the disc back in the 360 for the first time in nearly two years, I killed that Proudclad. And now, finally, the sword will fall, and I wonít be sitting like an idiot in the chair underneath it. Finally, I will get to write a blog two years in the making; a critique of f***ing Final f***ing Fantasy XIII, a highly enjoyable game that I just got too stuck on. So, next time, Final Fantasy XIII, and maybe DJ Hero.
F*** YOU PROUDCLAD!