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Thursday, February 25, 2016

SUPERHOT PC Review - 9.5/10

Were you expecting an awesome game to come out in February? Cause I wasn't. Usually this is the, "Damn, we missed the holiday window. Alright, just release it." Not to say EVERY game that comes out in the early months are bad, obviously. Its just I'm so used to every game hitting me around the holidays so I have to decide whether I want the awesome new game or presents for my family.
SUPERHOT is a pseudo puzzle first person shooter, if I had to label it in a genre. Basically you shoot stuff and it dies, although that doesn't nearly give it as much credit as it deserves. I played a demo of this a while ago and almost completely forgot about it. While it wasn't bad, all I could think was, "Huh. Neat," after the game was over. The big selling point is the fact that time is slowed down and only moves when you move. Think like a stop and go RPG but in shooter format.

The Good:
The reason I call this a 'pseudo puzzle FPS' is because that's basically what it is. You fight red guys using various means that get more and more complex as the game progresses. Moving at all, even your view, causes the game to start going and it will stop again once you halt movement. Every enemy dies in one gun shot or melee attack from a melee weapon. However, you also die in one hit from what I just mentioned before. It kind of turns into a bullet hell where your main objective is to not only hit the enemy but also avoid being hit. You get plopped into a small stage that also gets more complex as the game progresses. Your objective is to kill and survive. Pretty standard. You can pick up a variety of objects and weapons to aid you in completing everything, each having their own function and etc. Guns usually come off of dead enemies and rarely are just found lying around. Even then, that's not a great way to kill enemies considering how limited your view is and the previously mentioned one hit deaths so the game pushes you forward constantly.
Part of the game's charm and secret genius is how its presented. You're in a very drab, gray world and you're tasked with killing reds. Probably not a Soviet propaganda agenda but I'm not making any statements. The reason why this is so great is your eyes are drawn to your opponents. Even their bullet trails glow red, allowing you to dodge them if you can. Basically your objective is simple in how it can be completed and the difficulty naturally progresses with your own skill level as a person rather than some annoying difficulty swerve that changed the preconceived mechanics that were previously introduced.
I don't like puzzle games. They're frustrating and eventually make me go and find a walkthrough online. Guilty as charged. But with this game, well... A) a walkthrough won't help and B) I never felt like I needed one. Sure it got tough a few times but once you die all the enemies come from the same places. So each death was less of a loss and more remembering enemy positions and making a strategy around that. With most puzzle games there's one way to do a thing which is kind of why I call it a pseudo puzzle.

The Meh:
There's actually a story which kind of breaks up the pace of the game. I wish there was like an arcade mode where I could just go forward without having to experience any other deeper meaning. Its not bad, just a problem with the game stopping for a few minutes to make you read text. I accidentally skipped over possibly a crucial bit of dialogue tying everything together and making sense of the plot, so I was a little lost but even then I wouldn't have cared an insane amount.
This game feels like it was made for a VR experience. It can be played, and is still enjoyable, without it. But a lot of thing hinge on breaking reality in a way that would be best played within VR. I, being broke as all hell, cannot afford a VR set and don't really care to so I'm just going to be screen and mouse (or track pad in my case).
I can't really decide if its a negative or not but the game doesn't really have a HUD at all. So in shooters you know a few basic things. Where to go, where enemies are and how much ammo you have left. While I can do without the first two things, the second kind of sucks. Right in the middle of your murder onslaught you may just run out of bullets. Your character automatically reloads while time is going. So what you're going to be doing is walking around letting time go so your weapon can reload. Extra problem is your weapon will reload even when you don't have any ammo left, so you're just waiting for another bullet and find out at the worst possible moment that you're completely out and your only option is to hope you can stun the enemy for a quick kill/getting their weapon. I got a lot of cheap deaths out of this but it kind of works in theme with the game... I suppose. Its not really a negative but its definitely not a positive so I can only consider it a minor nuisance.

I highly recommend this game. Its fast yet slow, deep yet shallow and engaging all at the same time. Its kind of expensive considering what most indies are at, but its definitely worth it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Why Aren't Modern RPGs as Good as Yesteryear?"

This is going to be a loaded question and one I'm going to knock down immediately. Modern RPGs are fantastic and amazing and I love just about every one of them... but not everyone does. This article is going to be sort of a love letter as well as my past experiences with RPGs as well as saying "Shut up guys, it isn't all that bad."
A bit of history about me first. The first RPG I ever played in my life was Morrowind. As soon as I saw the game in EB Games (yes, it was that long ago) I begged my mom for it. Coming from a hyper Christian family I did not get it. "What is this?" my mom said. "It looks like a demon," she pointed at the dark elf I would later come to know was a Dunmer. However, after saving up the money for it and buying it myself, I was finally introduced to the world of RPGs on my original Xbox. Up until that point, all the other games had trained me that "When you press a button, a thing happens". I went to be a magic character and, if you know anything about Morrowind and older RPGs you'll know where I'm going. I wasn't yet introduced to the subtle nuances of how they perceived contact. Some spells outright failed to hit or did so little damage at all. I remember my first time seeing that a spell didn't hit it's target. I remember the frustration of clearly seeing the spell fire and make contact all to find out it apparently did nothing. The same happened with melee weapons.
Despite all of this my love for the genre never faded. Even to this day, if I see a game where you can gain experience and have a vast array of weapons in an open world environment I will almost immediately buy it. No surprise that I latched onto Oblivion some years later. The only reason I stopped playing the game was because my Xbox 360 had scratched the disk to high hell and made it unplayable. I remember fighting with magic and melee in my arsenal, acquiring almost all of the Daedric artifacts, getting pissed when I continued to encounter a bug that made the Knights of the Nine quest unfinishable no matter how many characters I remade and rising to fame as the most prestigious member of the Fighter's Guild. And, while Skyrim didn't have all of the content it's predecessors had, it still remains one of my favorite games of all time.
Why did I tell you this? I feel like everyone needs to hear this. Evolution is the means by which a thing changes drastically from it's previous iteration. RPGs are evolving as well. Part of what draws me to the genre is both the sense of grandness as well as being able to literally put myself in the game. I was the Hero of Kvatch. I helped Martin and The Blades beat back a god hell bent on destroying the entire world. I defeated The World Eater at the gates beyond death, where the Halls of Heroes lay filled with long dead warriors who had proven themselves in battle. You just can't get that type of immense story telling and fantastic stories really anywhere. Not only that, but my character grows stronger with each encounter. Bandits test my strength and skills before the truly tough fights as I use whatever arsenal I have at my disposal. They've really left their mark on me.
A lot of people have been disappointed with Fallout 4, for various reasons I'm not entirely sure of. No one can really say what it is they're so disappointed about without an addendum or asterisk behind it. Is the map too small? Is the gameplay dumbed down? Not enough quests? While these may be... problems, they're minor at best. The map is smaller only in your brain. Fallout 3's map was A LOT smaller, but you think its bigger because of what you see on the map. What you didn't see was all of the places that were inaccessible to the player such as buildings that towered above and invisible walls that kept you from breaking the game. The gameplay was, if anything, made smarter by the extra uses of the buttons for controllers now giving us a dedicated button for grenades while making the button also double for a power attack and now guns can be melee-ed with. Not enough quests? Debatable. The reason I bring up Fallout 4 is because it really shows how far we've come as gamers. I'm going to say it, a lot of stuff in Fallout 3 was downright stupid. Absolutely no vendor in the game could completely repair your weapons, There was so much useless junk that took up space for things I actually wanted to carry and a lot of items (like the aforementioned junk) had absolutely no purpose other than to be sold or shot out of your Junk Jet. Granted, Fallout 4 isn't perfect but its a far cry from being a bad or mediocre game.
One of the beautiful things about living right now in the age of the internet is the fact we can have a say in the games we play and actually have it mean something. And I'm not just talking about having a 24/7 ear to developers to voice our opinions, displeasures and general joy in what they've made rather the ability to actually alter the games ourselves. Mods are great. I know people had made jokes that Bethesda releases an unfinished game and tells us to finish it but that's entirely not what's happening. Literally, there is no game on the planet that doesn't have a bug in it let alone massive RPGs. The greater in scale something is the greater the likelihood of there being problems. Bethesda spent X amount of years working and polishing Fallout 4, same for Skyrim. Yet when they launched they still had to patch it. Unfortunately not all developers are as understanding or sensible as Bethesda. Some companies simply leave their broken games out to die. What could have been a masterpiece is now just a broken mess. People now have the ability to modify games to their specification, not just to make Thomas the Tank Engine replace all of the dragons in Skyrim or the ability to add more anime stuff where it wasn't already present but to be able to fix the games. I've been starting up a new Oblivion campaign at this very moment. It was a great game. Flawed, yes, but still great. I'm going to say it, despite all of my PC reviews I'm not a PC player. I really like controllers and Oblivion doesn't have controller support built into the game. While the patch may be a bit annoying to deal with, I can play Oblivion the way I played it before. I can also add in a patch that may fix that Knights of the Nine glitch I experienced all those years ago and never got to finish the entire game because of it.
I'm going to answer my previously asked question: "Why aren't modern RPGs as good as yesteryear?" We've become spoiled. Even now that we understand that a massive game takes a massive amount of time to make, and we can even look to see how much time it exactly took within a few button presses, we still whine and moan how things have gotten less better. Debatable at best. Games evolve. We're constantly changing and shifting our notions of good and great games. I'm not saying you're entitled to your opinion, I'm just saying you have to understand what you mean when you're actually saying that. We've been spoiled. We get these great games that have graphics no one could have ever imagined would be possible, have these stories that push the boundaries of normal conventions that society has placed on us. We get to experience how great something can be with a few clicks of a button. In Morrowind, you had to work to get all the way up to the top and it wasn't for everyone. A lot of concepts wouldn't make sense to a lot of people just picking up the game for the first time. Oblivion got a lot closer to being more user friendly but ultimately time has shown how well or poorly it has aged, not just in the sense of how the graphics look but how combat and other aspects feel and work. Skyrim was really the apex of how we're moving forward. Could the game be considered dumbed down? Possibly. But I argue that it really boiled down what an RPG really is. Was Fallout 3 a masterpiece? Absolutely. I would consider it one of the greatest games of all time. Could it's direct sequel in the series be considered a bit of a disappointment? I guess...? Perfection is unattainable. Let's get that out of the way. The idea that one thing can sate EVERYONE'S tastes is a bit far fetched to say the least. Fallout 4 is a great game. I just really want to say that. I think it's kind of weird so many people have so much negative things to say about it. You don't look at the Holy Grail and think, "I mean... ya, its cool and all. But like what if it looked... better?" Then again if you DO feel that way, there's always the mod community. Doing their best to polish an already shiny thing.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Metal Gear Online PC Review - 8/10

Metal Gear Online is a free update added with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I've played a few of the game modes and have a pretty decent grasp on what the whole game is, or at the very least enough to feel I can give you a sensible review on it.
I'd like to get it out of the way, first off, that I'm not a person who enjoys playing online with others. Battlefield 3 was probably about my last online shooter I played seriously and it was only so-so for me. That's not to say I think the whole genre is awful or I'd never play it, just saying I would never purposely buy a game that was wholly focused on multiplayer combat without a reason.

The Good:
If you've played The Phantom Pain, you'll pretty much feel right at home. The problem I find with most online games is they tend to differ drastically from the base game. Big Boss, in The Phantom Pain, moves quickly and is extremely agile despite being such a beefy person. While you're not as fast as a car, you're pretty damn fast and all of the controls have a pretty decent time from response to actual action. In lay-men's terms, if I were to press the X button my prompt would almost immediately go through with no visible delay. The same can be said for the online mode. Fighting other players feels like fighting other enemies in the world, albeit more challenging since its an actual person and not a computer fighting against you. My point is, the online mode isn't too far from the game you previously purchased.
I think I've played about three different modes. A standard deathmatch, a defend/espionage mode and the last one I admittedly forget. While this does seem very basic in terms of other games, there's a nice Metal Gear twist to them. In the deathmatch, its a standard ticket base game, by which I mean that there's a set amount of times a team can respawn before they are out of the game. In the base game one of the main features is capturing enemy soldiers via a Fulton system where you balloon them away. Doing this in online allows you to gain more tickets while taking away the other team's. Other players can also shoot down a person who is about to be Fultoned, so there's sort of a balance to it. The defense/espionage mode tasks your team with either defending or capturing some datadisks from the other team. This mode has no respawns, so death is permanent for the match. The defending team has the advantage of lethal weapons while the attackers have to use non lethal. Just about every game mode utilized the base game in some way which I thought was great. Use the materials you have at hand and your game feels a lot more complete, at least in my opinion.

The Bad:
Alright, so you know how most matches have their own smaller details and features? Like you can opt to kick out another player if they're just doing nothing? Ya, I never saw that here. Maybe it was just an option for the host but I was stuck with a player who did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING the entire game. It came to the point where I actually blocked them on Steam, hoping that they would be kicked out. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. Every single time, this person sat at the beginning doing nothing. They made themselves an easy kill to where some matches ended up in every other person waiting for a whole 8 minutes for the timer to run out or beginning the other team just to run to our base and kill the dumb ass. Every. Single. Match this happened. Every. Single. Time I was forced to be in a team with this jackass. I really wish I could remember their Steam name so I could plaster it somewhere as a beware sign. It was clear what this person was doing. Simply leaving their game on so they could accrue experience points without having to do anything.
In most online games there's sort of an unlock system. In The Old Republic, you gain items, experience and even part of a small achievement system that is in the game. In Battlefield, you unlock better weapons and gear to outfit your character to make them as lethal as possible. Ya, there wasn't that here. So there's three classes. Your standard sniper, stealth and heavy character. You'll be stuck with the first character you made at the beginning of the base game until you reach about lvl 6. As far as I can tell, you have no choice as to what you equip for weapons other than a standard beginning of the match screen. In the base game, you have a massive amount of weapons to choose from at your leisure. While I understand that if you have a class specifically for snipers that would kind of ruin it if you let everyone have a sniper, but the idea that I can't do anything is just baffling. As far as I can see there's no weapon customization, no real loadout other than a sort of perk system that is extremely limited if I'm being generous and the gear you can equip is cosmetic at best. Gear can be purchased using those MB coins you got before or by earning money in game... except they don't tell you how exactly to ear that money. In fact, I don't even remember a little screen after a match telling me how much I won. I played at least 10 consecutive games in a row. Before, I had 50 GP to spend. When I was done, I had 150 GP. So, by that logic, every single game nets you about 10 GP for completion. The most expensive, cosmetic, items I've seen are about 3000. Using this, you will have to play about three hundred matches. No. Not for me.
As a final bit of advice, you do decide to play this, don't randomly match make. This was my first blunder. When I did this, I was trapped in a room with one other person just waiting for a standard death match to begin. After about ten minutes, the game seemed it was about to start. Then the other player left and I was stuck in this room. FOREVER. Alright, so not forever, but there's actually no way to quit out once you're in the standard 'looking at the teams' screen. I stayed in here for about ten more minutes frantically pressing every single button til I just got furious and Alt + F4-ed. This game doesn't seem like it was meant to be an online game. There's few thought into the minute details that a lot of us take for granted and it really shows sometimes. I played this on PC where an Alt + F4 option is available. My brother recently bought the game and I have no idea how his experience would be were he to play it.

Alright, so this isn't all that bad, but its definitely not something I would purchase on it's own. The game comes free with The Phantom Pain so there's really no bad side considering that Phantom Pain is already a great game. Its like if someone came up to you with a prime rib steak at a five star restaurant and offered you some bland sauce on the side. Ultimately the sauce will do nothing to the steak and if you don't like it you can either not use it or scrape it off for the steak that was there before. Play it or don't.