>Wolverine / InFamous

>I would love to go and cover E3 one day, but the truth is that I’m not as good a writer as I imagine myself to be, and I’m feeling a bit too old (33 isn’t that old, but still) to suddenly switch gears and go back to school and then try to get work as a games journalist, especially in this economy. Case in point – I was re-reading my keynote column from the other day, and it felt a little familiar, and some quick checking revealed that I basically rewrote the introduction to last year’s E308 keynote column. This was not willful plagiarism; this was just me being a bad writer. So I apologize, and I embrace my sad destiny, which means that instead of being in Los Angeles for a crazy week of over-stimulation and sweatiness, I get to stay home and play games.

I did not finish Wolverine; my 3rd attempt at beating the final boss ended in frustration, cursing and sending the damned thing back to Gamefly. But Wolverine isn’t necessarily a bad game; I’d say it’s better than the movie, although that’s not saying much. Wolverine’s main problem is that in terms of storytelling, it simply assumes that you’ve seen the movie and the Xmen trilogy, and so you shuttle off from place to place without really knowing why, and there were more than a few times when I had absolutely no idea who I was talking to. Exhibit A – if you hadn’t seen the movie, you would have no idea who Deadpool actually was, because Deadpool’s original identity isn’t even mentioned until you’re in the middle of the first fight. But whatever. You don’t play a movie tie-in for the story, and the game spends most of its time throwing you into insane amounts of incredibly bloody combat (which is a feature missing from the movie). To its credit, the combat is satisfying, but also incredibly repetitive – waves and waves of baddies continually flood in, almost to the point where you could argue the game is padding its length – and the only times you get a break are either when you’re suddenly thrown into an arbitrary block-pushing puzzle, or when you’re watching a cutscene that feels totally taken out of context.

Even with all this, I was still kinda enjoying my time with it – at least there weren’t any moral choices to make – but then I got to the final boss. Wolverine’s boss fights suffer from this incredibly annoying and lazy problem where, when you’ve knocked a boss’s health bar all the way down to zero, they aren’t actually dead – they suddenly come back to full health and become even harder to beat. This is a stupid, stupid cliche and I’ve always hated it, and the final fight against Deadpool is especially egregious. You actually fight Deadpool at least 3 times – maybe there’s another round, but I gave up. As I said before, I kept dying during the 3rd go-round, because Deadpool basically cheats. The fight takes place atop a nuclear reactor, and I’d been able to get up close and throw Deadpool off the side at least a dozen times, but he’d just glitch back to the top – it’s true that Deadpool can teleport, but when he does he’s enveloped in a pink-ish cloud, which (tellingly) was not the case when he’d magically come back to the top of the reactor. Whatever. The game is good with Achievements, which is why I was playing it in the first place.

InFamous, on the other hand, is a quality game from top to bottom. Comparisons to Crackdown are valid – open-world superhero parkour games aren’t necessarily a dime a dozen – but it has its own unique spin and is incredibly engaging. Last night I finished all the missions on the first album and started messing around on the second. The missions, both side and story, are nicely varied, and while they do start to repeat themselves they don’t necessarily feel repetitive. The game does beat you over the head a little bit with the now-obligatory moral choices, but I’ve been being the good guy and it’s not hard to stay on that path. I’m certainly curious to see what the bad-guy powers are like, however, and I suspect that I’ll be giving InFamous another spin during the next slow release period.

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